E Street Band's Max Weinberg to speak at National Museum of Jewish History

Max Weinberg has a speaking engagement here in between band concerts.
Max Weinberg has a speaking engagement here in between band concerts.
Posted: March 26, 2012

WE LIKE TO picture our rock stars spending their tour off-days engaging in various manifestations of debauchery. But if you're Max Weinberg, you're spending your Tuesday night in Philly in a most un-debauched manner.

Tonight, Weinberg's boss, Bruce Springsteen, and his co-workers in the E Street Band are performing in Boston. Wednesday, they open their sold-out, two-night Wells Fargo Center engagement. In between, Weinberg has a date to speak at the National Museum of American Jewish History on Independence Mall.

In advance of the gig, Weinberg, who spent 17 years as Conan O'Brien's band leader on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" and "The Tonight Show," agreed to an email interview with the Daily News. Interestingly, the only question he chose not to answer was if he has ever been a victim of anti-Semitic acts.

Q: What, exactly, will you be doing at the museum? Do you have a set program?

A: I will deliver an overview of my career from the age of 5 to now .

Q: How important is Judaism in your life? Would you describe yourself as "observant"?

A: Being an active family at Temple Sharey Tefilo in East Orange, N.J., growing up, I was mightily influenced by the experience, particularly the leadership of Rabbi Avraham Soltes.

As an itinerant musician, it has been my practice to observe my faith wherever I find myself.

Q: I'm not sure everyone appreciates the physical demands of playing drums three hours at a shot. How do you stay in the kind of shape required to go out on a tour like this - especially in the wake of your 2010 surgery?

A: Lots of willpower, lots of sleep, and the ability to "whistle while I work"!

Q: How has touring changed for you over the years? Now that you are in your 60s, is it tougher than it used to be?

A: Touring is as much fun as it always has been.

Q: What was it like the first time the band got together without Clarence ?

A: Losing both Clarence Clemons and Dan Federici in 2008 have been monumental losses. But we honor their memory and their work by continuing to travel around with our story.

Q: We in Philly like to think you guys always kick it up a notch or three when you play here. Is this city truly special for you, or is it just another gig?

A: The great DJ Ed Sciaky was the first radio programmer who played the records back in the '70s, and the Philly audiences have always been tremendously supportive of Bruce and his band - you have to play hard in Philly!

Q: Are there any Philly gigs that stand out in your memory - specially the one at the Spectrum the night after John Lennon died?

A: Dec. 9, 1980, was as poignant an evening as I can remember - opening with "Twist and Shout!" The Amnesty International show in 1988 was special also. My father played football for in 60 years earlier.

Q: What do you miss most about working with Conan?

A: The people on the staff - great friends all.

Q: What are Max Weinberg's five all-time favorite Bruce Springsteen songs?

A:"New York City Serenade," "Ramrod," "Candy's Room," "We Are Alive" and the next one he writes! n

National Museum of Jewish-American History, 101 S. Independence Mall, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, $18 (NMJAH and National Constitution center members) and $25 (nonmembers), 215-923-3811, www.nmajh.org.

Contact Chuck Darrow at 215-313-3134 or at darrowc@phillynews.com. Read his "CasiNotes" blog at www.philly.com/philly/blogs/casinotes.

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