Max Weinberg auditioned for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band in August 1974, and made his official debut with the band a few weeks later. But his first actual encounter with the band was in April of that year, when he played drums for the Jim Marino Band, which opened for Springsteen at the Bishop Dougherty Student Center at Seton Hall University in South Orange.
Appearing as the guest for the 100th show in Mitch Slater’s “Financially Speaking” podcast series (you can listen to the entire episode on Spotify, or below), Weinberg shared his memories of that night — which must not have seemed, at the time, like the start of the next chapter of his life. (Weinberg was still 22, soon to turn 23, at the time of the Seton Hall show.)
Weinberg was attending Seton Hall University at the time and also working off-Broadway, in the pit band for “Godspell,” and playing with local bands.
“There was a friend of mine going to school with me, Jim Marino,” said Weinberg during the podcast interview, which was taped at the Transparent Clinch Gallery in Asbury Park. “He was from Belmar, N.J. And he was kind of the singer-songwriter (like) Jim Croce, James Taylor … and he had a group of friends … they harmonized together. He got the gig to open for Bruce in the Seton Hall cafeteria. It was April of ’74. He asked me if I’d play drums, ’cause they didn’t typically have a drummer. And I said, ‘Sure,’ ’cause I lived three blocks away.”
Weinberg had not yet heard of Springsteen.
“We rehearsed for a couple of weeks for this thing,” he said on the podcast. “It was a big deal gig. (Marino) was a big fan …
“The odd thing that happened was, in the middle of our set, I started to get really ill, and I felt really bad. It turns out I had acute tonsillitis. They took out my tonsils the next day. So I was gonna leave, and Jim said, ‘No, you gotta listen to this guy. It’ll blow your mind.’ I said, ‘I really don’t feel good.’ He said, ‘Well, listen to one song.’ So I said, ‘All right, I’m gonna listen to one song.’ So we’re in the back, and it’s in the cafeteria. The stage is like, tables. No introduction, just the lights come down and light hits the piano. And the guy sits down at the piano and starts playing. Real long: This long introduction. And that guy was David Sancious, and he’s playing this very extended intro to ‘New York City Serenade.’ And about three or four minutes into it, I said, ‘Ah, I really got to go.’ And I went home. And I did go to the hospital.
“So I left there thinking that Bruce Springsteen was this black cat who played piano. He was fantastic, you know. I had no idea. … I left before the band came on.”
You can listen to the entire podcast, in which Weinberg talks about many aspects of his life and career, here:
Also, check out a clip here (around the one-minute mark) of Weinberg playing drums (with Danny Clinch on harmonica) after the taping:
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