No matter your generation or demographic, Max Weinberg has been available for your discovery.
For late boomers and early Gen-Xers, it was, and is, his role as drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band; Weinberg has held the sticks on the Boss’s recording sessions and marathon concerts since 1974. For millennials like myself, it was his time as bandleader for Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show, beginning in 1993, in which he functioned as the deadpan foil to the host’s offbeat antics.
Real estate buffs may have clued into Weinberg through his serial renovations, which have been featured in the Wall Street Journal. He has flipped 44 houses at the time of this writing.
And as of last year, Delray Beach locals may know him as one of the seven members of the city’s planning and zoning board.
“My avocation, apart from my profession, has been, over the past 40 or so years, in tandem with my wife, buying properties, fixing them up. … These were houses that needed some tender, loving care, and were sold with the idea that you’re going to enjoy living in them,” says Weinberg, 70. “One of the reasons they asked me to put my name in for the planning and zoning board is because I had so much practical experience on the other side of the dais as an applicant.”
Weinberg’s relationship to Delray Beach began in 2008, when Springsteen and the E Street Band toured the BB&T Center in Sunrise, and Weinberg chose to stay at the Seagate. Nine years later, Weinberg and his wife, Becky, moved to Delray Beach, after “two extremely bitter, cold winters” in his native New Jersey.
“We met so many people so easily that we were drawn into the life of Delray Beach,” he recalls. “As a member of the planning and zoning board, I’ve really delved into the history, and I’m a member of the Historical Society and the Preservation Trust, so I really do know the history here. It’s a lovely place to live. If my children were young, I’d say it was a lovely place to raise a family. Once I started living here, I started getting drawn into trying to help the town.”
Weinberg jumped into these civic duties with both feet, immersing himself in the minutiae of Florida land development regulations and Delray’s comprehensive master plan. He’ll spend days on homework, researching the board’s agenda items for meetings that can last up to six hours. He speaks eloquently and at length about all things building and zoning, an outgrowth of his longtime passion for architecture. To wit: “I think that in certain parts of Delray Beach, a watered-down version of Corbusier’s international style, which was conceived a hundred years ago, is inappropriate for the neighborhood.”
Generally, while he describes his philosophy as “not anti-development at all,” his motto is “preserve the best, and improve the rest. You want to be very, very careful that in getting what you want, you don’t lose what you have—it’s a quote that was attributed to Little Richard, who some say is the architect of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s important that in looking toward the future, you respect the past, you learn from the past, and you honor the past. … If I have a soapbox, that’s the soapbox I get on.”
In addition to his contributions to city planning and historic preservation, Weinberg has also enriched Delray Beach’s cultural venues with his presence, playing venues such as Arts Garage and the Old School Square Pavilion with his current outfit, Max Weinberg’s Jukebox, formed with three versatile musicians from New Jersey. Like the name suggests, the shows are a hodgepodge of material from rock history, with the audience selecting the entire set list each night in real time from a “menu” of some 200 songs. One show from last year, for instance, saw the group segue from AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” into Tom Petty’s “American Girl” into Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Weinberg often tells stories from his nearly 60-year career in music between songs.
This sense of unpredictability onstage—of not knowing what the next song in the set list will be—isn’t new for a member of Springsteen’s band. “[Bruce will] turn around in a concert, and pick out a song we haven’t played in 20 years,” Weinberg says. “That’s the unspoken ability of the E Street Band, this ability to have the recall. It’s amazing; under the pressure of 50,000 people out there, you rise to the occasion.
“I’ve always embraced Tom Brady’s saying; he articulated my thoughts perfectly. He said, ‘if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.’”