Before ‘SNL,’ Maya Rudolph Played Keyboard In A Very ’90s Band


Maya Rudolph was born into showbiz, but she hasn’t stuck to the screen. She played the keyboard in a ’90s alternative rock band worth talking about all its own. Here’s how she made a musical impact long before joining Saturday Night Live

Growing Up In Music

The daughter of record producer Richard Rudolph and soul legend Minnie Riperton, Rudolph was surrounded by music from the day she was born. Three-time Grammy nominee Teena Marie was Rudolph’s godmother. Riperton’s biggest hit, “Lovin’ You,” was recorded with Maya in the room and features her name in the lyrics. She tragically died of cancer just days before Maya’s seventh birthday.

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Come the 1990s, Rudolph wore many hats. She graduated from U.C. Santa Cruz with a degree in photography. While taking improv classes at the Groundlings, she got work as a backup singer. As her career has taken off, Rudolph regularly returns to singing for sketches and comedy songs. She’s even recorded duets with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and is in a Prince tribute band with Gretchen Lieberum.

A Brief History of Weezer

Elsewhere in California, bassist Matt Sharp had arrived to make music with his friend Patrick Wilson. Wilson soon added Jason Cropper to the group and convinced Rivers Cuomo to assist with the demos being made. The demos were impressive enough for Sharp to move to Los Angeles, and the group settled on a new name: Weezer.

As the group provided the finishing touches on their self-titled debut, Sharp formed a new band: The Rentals. He was on vocals and surrounded himself with a rotating cast of musicians. Shortly after they formed, Weezer was released. It eventually went platinum off of singles like “Buddy Holly” and “Undone (The Sweater Song).”

By 1995, the Rentals were ready to release their first album Return of the Rentals. It had a warm reception and scored a radio hit with “Friends of P.” When the band went on its first tour, Sharp needed a local keyboardist and background singer to help him out. And that, folks, is how Rudolph went on tour with the bassist of Weezer.

Maya Rudolph On The Keyboard

Rudolph joined the group for its first set of tours, meaning she may have been present for opening sets in front of Alanis Morissette and Blur. She also made her way on to their next album and into the Rentals music video for “Waiting.” You can see her on the keyboard.

Everything came full circle as it were on May 19, 2001. Rudolph had been on the show for a season when Weezer came on as the musical guest. Little did the world know, a brief Rentals reunion would be happening backstage.



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