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Max says he found his passion for music early on, at the age of 5, watching Elvis Presley perform on television. "Seeing Elvis on 'The Milton Berle Show' in April, 1956 made an impression, but the thought in my mind was completely busted open when he debuted on 'The Ed Sullivan Show,'" Max says. "The tune that really got me was 'Hound Dog.' The first big drum roll by D.J. Fontana was like a call to arms, and I played along on the floor."
Max's cousin introduced him to the tools of the trade, offering a pair of beat up sticks and a little marching drum. "Though my family was of modest means, I was able to take drum lessons in 4th grade. At the end of 6th grade, having played my rudiments and exercises in an orthodox fashion on my bed, my parents bought me a drum set on a long payment plan."
From young Max's first drumming gig as a novelty act for a local wedding band, to playing with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, Max's passion for playing only grew. After a decade with the E Street Band, Max and his wife had two children. Instead of pushing his kids into music, Max says, he wanted them to find their own passion. "As modern parents, my wife and I gave both Jay and his sister Ali lessons in everything as young children. Karate, math, you name it. Because of cutbacks in educational funding, you have to pick up the slack."
As part of helping his son discover new interests, Max took Jay to live concerts. "We started going to shows when I was about 11 or 12," Jay says. "They were really energetic, aggressive bands, and I think I just took to the drums the most. The drummers just looked like they were having the most fun. Drums were the most physical instrument on stage, and I related to that from my background in hockey. When I got to high school, I was looking for something more creative than hockey, that retained the animalistic qualities of playing goalie."
As well-established as Max was in music by that time, he says the time spent with Jay watching live concerts had a big impact on both their relationship and his own drumming. "Seeing all those young drummers influenced my modernity to a certain extent," says Max. "Going to those concerts was a fabulous bonding experience for my son and I. Part of the joy of having children is opening yourself to seeing the world through their eyes."
At 14, Jay says he began studying his favorite drummers a little closer, and began to play along with his favorite songs on his dad's old drum kit. "I took that inspiration from all these drummers that I was going to see at a really young and impressionable age. I just picked up the drums in our basement and started trying to figure it out."
Max says he remembers recognizing Jay's interest in drums, and offered to sign him up for lessons. "Jay told me he just wanted to play for fun, and I totally got it. I remember telling Jay two things about drums: to keep strict time without obsessing about it, and to not squeeze the sticks, so he could avoid the multitude of surgical procedures I had on my hands because I played incorrectly," says Max. "That was really the extent of my technical advice."
For Jay, Max's willingness to let him forge his own path was crucial to his development. "I only wanted to play when I felt inspired," Jay says, "maybe playing for hours one day, and not at all the next day. Had it been a forced lesson environment with the drums, I wouldn't have responded well."
"It was a pleasure for both my wife and I to see Jay aggressively go after this thing and everything that goes with it," Max says. "It reminded me of me when I was a kid, and it was an eye-opener for me."
Through high school and college, Jay worked with several full-time bands, and sometimes sat in with bands he knew. As a result, he developed a wide range of playing styles. At age 18, just a couple of years into drumming, Jay's hard work paid off when Max was caught in a scheduling conflict between his tv gig and the E Street Band tour. "Bruce called me as a father and said, 'Obviously he can handle the music. Do you think he can handle it?' I told him, 'Well, you've seen him play hockey; he can definitely handle the pressure.' And I handed Jay the phone."
Once Jay had agreed to fill in, Max says he handed him a copy of Sam & Dave's Greatest Hits. "I said, 'If you get this, you'll know everything you need to know about playing with Bruce and the E Street Band.' And he did," says Max. "Jay worked on the material, and I tried to stay out of it. Of course, I had to look, and I remember thinking, 'Hey, that's not how I'd do it!' But he wasn't copying me, he really made it his own.
"Seeing Jay play, and seeing the E Street Band with a kicking drummer, inspired me to play things differently and to take more chances, Max says. "And this is after doing it for 35 years. Obviously the familial experience was unique, but the musical experience, seeing someone else do it, and do it well, not just fill in, but really own that chair. For Jay to do that at the age of 18, that was extraordinary."
Since his time on tour with the E Street Band, Jay has played with a long list of hardhitting bands including Against Me!, a band he saw with his father a decade prior. Against Me! will soon be releasing a new album, titled Transgender Dysphoria Blues, with Jay on drums.
"My development as a drummer is rooted in the experiences I had with my dad at a young age, and I'm so grateful for that," says Jay. "My dad and I recently played a festival in Sweden, and I thought, 'Wow, he's on tour with his band. I'm on tour with my band. And we're in Sweden watching bands together just like when I was 12 years old.'" "The passion we share is still evolving," Jay says. "I've really been inspired by watching him on the last E Street Band run. To watch him still improving in his 60s is mind blowing."
For Max and Jay Weinberg, their relationship continues to grow. "The passion is still there, and it's stronger than ever," says Jay. "We can talk for hours about music, art, or other things going on in our lives. I'm so thankful to have that relationship with my dad."