Max Weinberg is best known for his 45-year stint as Bruce Springsteen’s (“The Boss”) E Street Band drummer. He’s also known as band director of the “Max Weinberg 7,” which from 1993 until 2009, was the house band on the "Late Night with Conan O’Brien" show.
But, for Weinberg, the drums have been his occupation for more than 60 years.
Weinberg grew up in the Newark, New Jersey, Jewish community. He began playing the drums at age 6 and shortly after at bar mitzvah’s all around.
As a kid, Weinberg said he saw Elvis and his band on a black and white television on "The Milton Berle Show."
"They used one camera then, so I saw his drummer, D.J. Fontana, do a drum roll on 'Hound Dog' and knew that’s what I wanted to do," Weinberg said in a recent interview. "We later became good friends."
Fontana died in 2018.
“At age 7, I began making money … wore a mohair suit in orchestra shows and the bar mitzvah’s. It helped my family out a lot," Weinberg said. "Then, I saw the Beatles and Ringo in 1964 on 'Ed Sullivan'"
Weinberg was almost 13 years old then.
"That sealed what I wanted to be for life and have been,” he said.
Max Weinberg continued to play music when he could, moving from one band to another as he attended high school and college. He was still living at home with his family when in 1974 he saw a “want ad” in the Village Voice looking for a drummer.
It turned out it was Bruce Springsteen, who had a Columbia Records contract, but needed a drummer. He hired Weinberg in the E Street Band and their incredible career began almost immediately.
"Born to Run" was released in 1975, catapulting Springsteen to worldwide fame. He made the cover of Time and Newsweek in the same week in 1975. Springsteen and the E Street Band’s run of record after record and tour after tour took off and has with breaks continued ever since.
The "Born in the USA" album in 1984 saw incredible success with seven top 10 songs. Playboy magazine’s 1985 pop/jazz poll saw Weinberg selected as the world’s greatest drummer.
Rolling Stone’s critics poll in1986, selected Weinberg as the world’s best drummer. Weinberg achieved the level of success he sought when he watched D.J. Fontana and Ringo Starr and decided he wanted to be like them.
But, Bruce Springsteen dissolved the E Street Band in 1989 and moved to Los Angeles with Patti Scialfa, who he then married.
The end of the E Street Band was a huge challenge to Weinberg. He finished his college degree and briefly attended law school.
“They’re too many lawyers, not enough drummers," Weinberg said — as he again played bar mitzvahs for $125!
But, then in a chance meeting near Carnegie Hall in 1993 with Conan O’Brien, they talked music and more.
"He was really smart and interesting,” Weinberg said.
O’Brien offered Weinberg an audition and he began his second career as band director of “The Max Weinberg 7” on O’Brien’s late show, being hired by Lorne Michaels ("Saturday Night Live’s" creator).
The Conan O’Brien show continued until 2009 when O’Brien moved to LA for "The Tonight Show," which lasted a short period.
Weinberg’s Jukebox and its visit to Frankfort, represent his third career. The band's performance is 7:30 p.m. Sept. 6 at the Grand Theatre located at 308 St. Clair St.
“We list 300 songs covering the history of music … Elvis, the Beatles, Springsteen and more," Weinberg said. "I invite the audience to create the set list in real time. They pick it and we play it!”
Weinberg’s band consists of John Merjave, Bob Burger and Glen Burtnik.
Tickets are still available. Buy online or contact the Grand Theatre’s ticket office at 502-352-7469 to inquire about tickets.
The show is sponsored by Joyce Albro and Gene Taylor.
The historic Grand Theatre reopened as a performance venue in the fall of 2009 after a $5 million restoration spearheaded by the non-profit organization Save the Grand Theatre Inc. The Grand opened in 1911 as a vaudeville house and later became a movie theater before it closed in 1966. With its resurrection, the Grand is a 428-seat performing and visual arts theatre featuring state-of-the-art facilities. The Grand also hosts social, educational and civic events.