By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Magazine
The first sounds you hear on the title track of Bruce Springsteen’s recently released 20th studio album, Letter to You, are the four snare shots that jumpstart the infallibly immaculate backbeat of Max Weinberg.
As a longtime member of the E Street Band, “Mighty Max,” as The Boss calls him, is known for the jackhammer precision of his drumming. As a resident of Delray Beach, he’s also becoming known as a city planner.
That’s because city commissioners this summer appointed the lifelong drummer to a two-year term on the Planning and Zoning Board. Described as a “real-estate obsessive” by the Wall Street Journal, Weinberg has bought or built nearly 40 houses and is no stranger to planning and zoning board meetings.
“Bruce used to ask the question: Why do they call it a record? It is because it will last forever,” Weinberg told the Palm Beach Post. “It is the same with planning and zoning board decisions. They will have lasting impacts.”
Weinberg’s six-bedroom British Colonial house on Seaspray Avenue is on the market for $5.2 million, but he’s said that’s simply because he and his wife, Becky, want to downsize, and that they will continue to reside in Delray.
“We love it here,” he said. “It has a great small-town feel but, at the same time, it is a city.”
Weinberg, 69, first knew he wanted to be a drummer when at age 5 he saw Elvis Presley on The Milton Berle Show in 1956. It was Presley’s drummer, D. J. Fontana, that he really picked up on, though, and little Max started drumming a year later. He grew into a child star around his hometown of Newark, N.J., playing gigs in a three-piece mohair suit.
It’s a sartorial style that’s stuck with him since he joined the E Street Band in 1974. Weinberg means business behind the battery and he looks like it, often dressing in a suit and tie — not your typical rocker attire. The same was true during his 17-year stint as bandleader and sidekick for Conan O’Brien’s late-night TV shows, most of which he played simultaneously with the E Street gig.
His current project is the interactive Max Weinberg’s Jukebox, a four-piece band that invites the audience to create the setlist by calling out requests from a video-screen menu of over 200 songs. A schedule of tour dates through August of next year is on www.maxweinberg.com.
The Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer has also recorded with his own big band and done session work on rock classics. That’s him on Meat Loaf’s epic Paradise by the Dashboard Light. And he’s done it all persevering through several operations for tendinitis in his wrists.
Weinberg answered our recurring set of Quote Unquote questions just after the recent wedding of his 30-year-old son, Jay, also a drummer, who plays with heavy metal band Slipknot and filled in for dad with the E Street Band in 2009.
Aside from the weather, what do you enjoy most about South Florida?
The pace of life is apropos of a place in the sun. And — 12 months a year it’s green.
Aside from the weather, what do you dislike most about South Florida?
Coming from the Northeast, it’d be nice to encounter a curving road now and then.
Are you a beach person or a pool person?
When in your life are you or have you been the happiest?
Marrying my wife, Becky, in 1981, and the births of my children, Ali and Jay. Most recently attending the marriage of Jay and the lovely Chloe Howcroft in Franklin, Tenn.
What do you do when you’re stuck in a traffic jam on I-95?
Having lived in Los Angeles, the secret is to thoroughly know the backstreets and exit the freeway.
What music are you listening to now?
Right now — Bruce Springsteen’s new album.
Are you a fan, and if so, of what?
Architecture in all its iterations, particularly the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Tom Kundig of Seattle is also a favorite, as is Wallace Cunningham of San Diego. Locally, Gary Eliopoulos always hits the mark.
If you had to choose: Beatles or Stones?
At any given moment — both!
What are your social media handles?
I’m mostly an analog guy living in a digital world, but folks can find me at @EStreetMax on Twitter and @mightymaxweinberg on Instagram.
Apple or Android?
Uh … rotary phone.
Who is your real-life hero or heroine?
My life partner, my heroine, the lovely and talented Becky.
What car are you driving now?
Volvo V90 — lots of room for drums.
If you had to choose: Rocky or Raging Bull?
Do you mean to get punched by? As Mike Tyson opined, ‘They all have a plan until I punch them in the face.’
What do you like most about yourself?
That I try to take after my father, Bertram, a mostly pro-bono attorney who selflessly helped others in need. I also take the phrase ‘due diligence’ very, very seriously.
What places in South Florida do you recommend to guests visiting from out-of-town?
Two: Save the Chimps habitat in Fort Pierce (life-changing experience) and Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach (incredibly diverse and peaceful).
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’m a self-improvement multi-tasker, so working on that all the time.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
BEING THERE for my kids and Becky. As Jacqueline Kennedy said early on in JFK’s presidency, ‘If you mess up your kids, it doesn’t really matter much what else you do.’ Oh yeah — playing drums on Bruce’s Born in the USA was pretty cool, too!
PHOTO: Max Weinberg performing at the Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton. Courtesy Kick 10 Sports and Entertainment.