Max And Jay Weinberg: Like Drummer, Like Son Max Weinberg, longtime drummer for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and bandleader for the Tonight Show, recently got one of the best Father's Day gifts a dad could receive. When he couldn't make some of Springsteen's gigs, the Boss suggested that Weinberg's 18-year-old son Jay sit in this summer.
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Max And Jay Weinberg: Like Drummer, Like Son

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Max And Jay Weinberg: Like Drummer, Like Son

Max And Jay Weinberg: Like Drummer, Like Son

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GUY RAZ, host:

Father's Day was only officially recognized in the United States in 1972, just two years before Max Weinberg joined the E Street Band as Bruce Springsteen's drummer. Maybe you're familiar with Max's work.

(Soundbite of song, "Born in the USA")

RAZ: Now, Max Weinberg's 18-year-old son, Jay, was so inspired by his dad that he decided to pick up the drumsticks, as well, and he formed a band called Chaosis.

(Soundbite of music)

RAZ: Well, you know what they say, like father like - well, not so much like son, but alike enough that Jay Weinberg was hired for a very special job this summer during his break from college.

Max Weinberg, as you may know, is also the bandleader for the new "Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien." So, when he couldn't make some of Springsteen's gigs, the boss suggested the younger Weinberg sit in. And so, this Father's Day, we bring dad and son together. Jay Weinberg is in Athens, Ohio. He's currently touring with his band, The Reveling, and fresh off the Springsteen tour. Hi, Jay.

Mr. JAY WEINBERG: Hi, how's it going?

RAZ: And on the line with us from Los Angeles is his dad, Max Weinberg. Hi, Max.

Mr. MAX WEINBERG: Hey, Guy, how are you?

RAZ: Max Weinberg, Springsteen has called you, and this is a quote, the greatest drummer in the world, and yet clearly, he's comfortable having your son take your place when you can't make the gigs. How does it feel to see your own kid do that?

Mr. M. WEINBERG: Pride doesn't really describe it adequately. It's an amazing experience. And Jay did It all himself. I mean, this was just someone who embraced the challenge, went for it, learned hundreds of songs, and assimilated my style, and then threw it out to the audience flavored by his own metal and punk style playing, and in some cases, doing a better job than me. And there's licks that he's come up with and played that I have stolen, you know, and I'm not giving them back.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: And Jay, you've only been playing the drums for what, four years now?

Mr. J. WEINBERG: Yeah, about four years, yes. I started when I was 14.

RAZ: And I understand that actually you refused to let your father sort of help you as you were kind of teaching yourself.

Mr. J. WEINBERG: You know, he's helped me for sure, you know, so far as just kind of, you know, conditioning myself and basically not beating myself up as a drummer. And he let me set up this, you know, old drum set in our attic.

RAZ: So, growing up in the house of Springsteen's drummer, your dad, Max Weinberg, it wasn't like, oh, dad, not "Thunder Road" again?

Mr. J. WEINBERG: Yeah, I know. I don't know. Actually, I didn't really know too much about that part of, you know, my dad's musical career until the band got back together in '99.

Mr. M. WEINBERG: Well, Guy, that's right. You know, my children, as young children, knew me strictly as a TV personality who played the drums, did comedy, and that was my job, and that was my career. I started the late night program with Conan O'Brien when Jay was three years old. So - and, you know, we didn't have a lot of memorabilia around the house. So, I think my children probably thought, you know, Bruce and his wife, Patty, were neighborhood parents, which you know, they were, you know, but not that we necessarily worked together.

My wife, Rebecca, and I strove to raise our children to experience everything they could experience. And I've said it to them, and they know it, is that our mantra was if you act responsibly, you'll get responsibility, and they always did.

RAZ: What a responsibility to play for Bruce Springsteen. Jay, that first show, the first time you sat down to fill in your dad's seat, you were asked to play "Born to Run." Is that right?

Mr. J. WEINBERG: Yeah, "Born to Run" is one of the more complex songs, and that was the first song that I did with them.

RAZ: Were you nervous? I mean, you were at Giants Stadium, and there were thousands of people there.

Mr. J. WEINBERG: Yeah, yeah. No, I was definitely really - I mean, my stomach just completely turned into a knot.

RAZ: And then, there's actually a really raw video of it on YouTube. I don't know if there's an official one. But there's a really amazing moment at the end, Max, when you came out, and you just looked so proud. You just hugged him, and you just looked like such a proud dad.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. M. WEINBERG: Well, I was over-the-moon proud. And of course, with my children, Jay's sister Ally(ph) and Jay, it doesn't take performing in a stadium of 80,000 people to make me proud. But I have to say I was just floored. I went out in the audience at Giants Stadium because I couldn't believe how great he sounded with the band, how energetic it was. And it was the first time I'd ever seen Bruce and the E Street Band play from the front.

It was suddenly hearing all this music in a different light and with, you know, through his eyes and ears and playing. And my wife was there, my mother was there, his sister was there.

Mr. J. WEINBERG: And you should have seen mom. She was hysterically crying.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. M. WEINBERG: Yeah, I mean, you know, I had tears in my eyes, and I think it - you know, I've gotten lots of feedback from people who had seen that picture or a clip of that moment in the summer of '08. And Jay represents anybody who ever sat in the audience of a big rock show and wanted to be on the stage and fantasized being on the stage, and there he is, and it wasn't with the thought of ever doing it again. He never has to do it again. And in fact, he didn't ask. Bruce asked him to sit in that night. And that naturally, then very organically, led into the discussion of who would, you know, come aboard and play a few shows that I would have to miss.

RAZ: Yeah, these are some of the first gigs since 1974 that you've had to miss.

Mr. M. WEINBERG: These are the only gigs I've ever missed.

RAZ: The only one.

Mr. M. WEINBERG: Yeah, seven or eight of them. So, you know, you don't suddenly, as Bruce himself has said, you don't suddenly find yourself playing drums with the E Street Band because you're somebody's son. You deserve the job. And he has, you know, indicated that there probably isn't anybody else who could have done it in the way that Jay did it.

RAZ: It really turns the E Street Band into a family.

Mr. M. WEINBERG: Well, the E Street Band is a family. It's more like a community of families. All of our children grew up with us once we regrouped in '99. They grew up with us. They were little children on the road. We had a bunch of little kids with us. And Jay, at an early age, really focused on what Bruce and the E Street Band were doing on stage.

RAZ: Jay, Steven Van Zandt, who of course plays guitar for Springsteen, once said that your dad reads Bruce's mind, and that's something that can't be learned. So, have you been able to figure out how to read Bruce Springsteen's mind?

Mr. J. WEINBERG: To a certain extent, yeah. I mean, that's kind of what the job is. When we started doing rehearsals in either February or March, that's where I started kind of getting a feel for, you know, if Bruce looks one way, you do one thing. If he looks another, you do another thing. And it's kind of, you know, the job is to deliver on what the boss wants.

Mr. M. WEINBERG: And that's something that Jay masterfully did. I mean, it's still…

Mr. J. WEINBERG: Thanks, Dad.

Mr. M. WEINBERG: None of us can…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. M. WEINBERG: Well, none of us in the E Street Band can believe that he was able to do this. It's really, as Bruce said recently in Rolling Stone magazine, 18-year-olds aren't supposed to be able to do this.

RAZ: Jay Weinberg, while we have your dad on the line, any Father's Day wishes for the old man?

Mr. J. WEINBERG: Happy Father's Day, Dad.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. M. WEINBERG: Well, thank you, son. I love you very much, as well as your sister, Ally, and your mom, Becky. And I wish we were all going to be together on Father's Day. But talking with you on NPR on Father's Day, that's a pretty good gift. So, I'll take that this year.

RAZ: Max Weinberg is the bandleader for "The Tonight Show," and he's usually the drummer for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. He's being replaced by his son, Jay, on a few dates this summer. Guys, thanks so much, and Max, happy Father's Day.

Mr. M. WEINBERG: Thank you, Guy. And Jay, I'll see you soon.

Mr. J. WEINBERG: All right, Dad, talk to you later.

Mr. M. WEINBERG: All right.

(Soundbite of song, "Walk Like A Man")

Mr. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (Singer): (Singing) Well, so much has happened to me that I don't understand. All I can think of is being five years old, following behind you at the beach, tracing your footprints in the sand, trying to walk like a man.

RAZ: That's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. And for all you dads, happy Father's Day and have a great week.

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