Newark, New Jersey, who was performing publicly by the time he was seven
years old. As he grew older, he
became involved in the budding Jersey shore music scene, playing covers of Mitch
Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, The Rolling Stones and The Young
Rascals. In 1964, he played the
New York World’s Fair with The Epsilons. He graduated from Columbia High
School in 1969 and was in the studio a year later with a group called
Blackstone to record a self-titled album. He continued his formal education at
Adelphi University and Seton Hall, where he studied film. In the meantime, he continued
drumming in at bar mitzvahs, in bars, and at weddings, then wound up in the
orchestra pit for a Broadway run of Godspell.
April 1974, he opened for Bruce Springsteen as a member of The Jim Marino
Band in a concert at Seton Hall University. When The Boss advertised an opening
in The Village Voice, Max applied
and aced the audition. By 23rd
August, he was officially a member of the E Street Band. His first performance with them was
at a place called The Main Point, located in Bryn Mawr,
Pennsylvania, on 19th September. His first recording with them was
1975’s Born to Run.
In 1977, he
appeared on Meat Loaf’s Bat out
of Hell, drumming on hits such as the title track, “Paradise by
the Dashboard Light”, and “You Took the Words Right out of My
slowed down on the somber 1978 recording, Darkness on the Edge of Town. It may have messed with his pacing a
little bit, because shortly thereafter he had a case of drummer’s
block and had trouble just keeping time. The fact that he had developed
tendonitis couldn’t have helped.
Eventually he had a total of seven hand and wrist surgeries to deal
with the problem. He also did
some rehab work with Joe Morello, who taught him
how to play through the pain.
married in 1981 to a schoolteacher named Rebecca Schick.
1983, he could be heard drumming on the top two songs on the Billboard
chart, “Making Love out of Nothing at All” by Air Supply and
“Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler.
and groups he worked with include Gary U.S. Bonds, Peter Gabriel, Ian
Hunter, Carole King, Sir Paul McCartney, Natalie Merchant, Southside Johnny
& The Asbury Jukes, Ringo Starr, Sting,
Barbra Streisand, and Pete Townshend.
In 1984, he
appeared on The Boss’s blockbuster album, Born in the U.S.A.
He could also be found on the bookshelves as the author of The Big Beat: Conversations with Rock’s
In 1985, he
was dubbed Best Drummer in a Pop and Jazz Music Poll conducted by Playboy; He received the same honour in 1986, courtesy of the critics at Rolling Stone.
started a one-man, multimedia presentation called “Growing up on E
Street”, replete with film shorts produced by Max and a Q&A
In 1987, he
was supplanted by a drum machine on several tracks of Bruce
Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love,
but on the road, he was irreplaceable.
He was also irreplaceable at home, as he and Rebecca welcomed their
first child, Ali, into the world.
his education in 1989 at Seton Hall.
On 18th October, he got a phone call from Bruce saying he
was breaking up the band. Just
as well Max had gone back to school.
Later that year, he graduated with a B.A. in Communications. He went on to attend the Cardozo
School of Law at Yeshiva University, but dropped out in a little over a
In 1990, the Weinbergs had their second child, Jay, and Max
supplemented his income by giving motivational speeches to companies. He also spent time volunteering for
Big Brothers Big Sisters and they bestowed their HERO Award upon him in
October. It is hard to believe
he had time to start up a production company and record label. Hard Ticket Entertainment was
launched in 1990 and a year later they had already released an album, Scene of the Crime by Killer
Joe. In 1991, The Big Beat: Conversations with Rock’s
time of wearing many hats to make ends meet, Max donned another one,
working at Music Master as an executive. He would also take drumming jobs
wherever he could, including bar mitzvahs. In 1992, he did a guest stint with
10,000 Maniacs when their drummer was out with an injury. Things were beginning to turn around
for Max, who found himself performing at President
Clinton’s 1993 inauguration gala. He auditioned to play in the pit
band for the Broadway re-working of Tommy,
but was relegated to second alternate substitute percussionist. (No one wants to be second
alternative substitute percussionist.)
In July, he
bumped into comedian Conan O’Brien, who was just getting ready to
start his own late-night TV show.
Max shared his vision of what the music should be like, and Conan
invited him to audition. He
slapped together The Max Weinberg 7 and the septet won the audition. Max was named Music Director and has
been the bandleader ever since.
By 1994, he
had the clout to put his name on the CD collection, Max Weinberg Presents:
Let There Be Drums.
In spite of
his newfound television success, he didn’t stop touring the college
circuit, but tweaked the title of his show to “E Street to Late
Night: Dreams Found, Lost and
In 1995, Bruce
briefly re-assembled the band for some new material to be included on a Greatest Hits album. Max also contributed his talents to
a pair of tracks on Johnnie Johnson’s CD, Johnnie Be Back.
All in all, it was a busy year, including performances at the
Grammys and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Gala Concert. He was back at 1600 Pennsylvania
Avenue in December and performed at President Clinton’s second
inauguration gala the next month.
In 1998, he was Music Director for Comic Relief 8 at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.
schedule became a little more complicated in 1999 when The Boss decided to
get the band together.
Fortunately, his other boss, Conan, has been very good about giving
Max time off to go on the road.
For the most part, Max has been allowed to moonlight ever since,
rarely missing a beat. His
connection with an international E Street Band tour could not hurt the TV
shows, however. He was
temporarily replaced by James Wormworth, with
Jimmy Vivino taking over band-leading
duties. The Boss was equally
flexible to work around Max’s schedule, and tried to keep the
extended tour confined to weekends, allowing his drummer to appear on TV
during the week.
In the year
2000, The Max Weinberg 7 issued their eponymous debut on compact disc. The album included covers of songs
the band had played on Late Night
with Conan O’Brien.
In 2002, Max
appeared on The Boss’s 9/11-themed The Rising, and performed on the subsequent tour. Again, Conan gave him a leave of
absence so he continued to divide his time between the show and the
road. His neighbours
were not so understanding when he decided to turn
his 65 acres of property into a subdivision.
In 2004, he
campaigned unsuccessfully for presidential wannabe, John Kerry.
A song by The
Max Weinberg 7, “R.C.4” was included on the soundtrack of the
2005 remake of Bewitched.
The Boss made
his third appearance on Late Night
in 2006 just as plans were in the works for another album, Magic. It resulted in another tour and more
time off for Max.
Bruce and the
E Street Band famously played the half-time show at Super Bowl XLIII in
2009, and members of The Max Weinberg 7 were also included in the
thereafter, Max was informed that he and the rest of the Max Weinberg 7
would indeed be accompanying Conan on his next big adventure, The Tonight Show. They added a musician and became
known as The Tonight Show Band.
It was not the best timing for Max, who was just getting ready to go
back on the road with the E Street Band on Bruce’s Working on a Dream tour.
moonlighting became comic fodder for O’Brien, who used his
drummer’s frequent departures as a running gag on the show, sending
him off in mock pageantry, flying to the rafters like an angel or
travelling down the New York streets on a float, with hilarious
Bruce Springsteen recordings
Held up without a Gun (Bruce Springsteen)
Hungry Heart (Bruce Springsteen)