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Springsteen's "Secret Weapon": How Jay Weinberg Scored a Spot in the E Street Band

March 27, 2009 3:57 PM ET

Last December E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg was driving his 18-year-old son Jay to school in Hoboken, New Jersey, when Bruce Springsteen called. "He wanted to talk to Jay," says Max. "He said to him, 'Jay, this is Bruce. You may have heard I have a band. In that band I have the world's greatest drummer, who has a scheduling conflict. He gave me your name and number and suggested that I call you to see if you'd be interested in playing with me and the E Street Band.' " Jay accepted.

Up until four years ago Jay had never played the drums. "When he was 14, on his own and without any direction from me, he took one of my old drum sets and set it up in the attic of a barn we have and essentially taught himself," says Max. "Teaching him myself would have been like teaching your kid to drive. That can be a nightmare. At Jay's suggestion, I backed off on showing him anything." Within a year Jay had guested onstage with the Used, and later the Bouncing Souls. "Every one of those appearances had been really daunting," says Jay. "It's like my experience as a hockey goalie. I find it cool to be under that sort of pressure. You can make or break this entire thing." He now plays in the punk group the Reveling.

Last August Jay sat in with Springsteen and the E Street Band at Giants Stadium for "Born To Run" — where he got a huge response from the capacity crowd. A few months later it became clear Max would have to miss some gigs on Springsteen's next tour of Europe since the dates coincided with the premiere of The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien, where Max serves as the bandleader. "There were a few other people we could have gone to, but we knew Jay was our secret weapon," says Springsteen's manager Jon Landau. "He's just a remarkable person. It's in the genes."

As of now, Jay will only be needed for the six or seven shows of the European tour. "Conan has done so much to make it possible for Max to do both jobs," says Landau. "Max has worked things out so that he's going be able to be there for Conan, and he's gonna be there for us most of the time." To prepare for the shows, Jay has been rehearsing extensively with the E Street Band. He sat in for ten songs during the band's public rehearsal concerts in Asbury Park this week. "I watched them on tour since I was nine and I watched night after night of the Magic tour," he says pointing to his head. "All the songs from that tour are up here." Max couldn't be prouder. "This is quite a unique moment in rock history," he says. "The torch has been passed to a new generation, so to speak. Temporarily, I might add. Because I'm not giving up my job yet."

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