It was sadly announced last month that longtime Conan O'Brien band leader Max Weinberg won't be onboard when Conan's new late-night talk show premieres on TBS on November 8. However, until this week, the reason for Max's departure was unclear. But in a new interview, Max reveals that his secret open-heart surgery and subsequent three-month recovery influenced his decision to not return to the airwaves.
Max, who has also drummed for the E Street Band for years, publicly acknowledges his heart surgery for the first time during a Fancast-conducted interview for HBO's Bruce Springsteen documentary, The Promise: The Making Of Darkness On The Edge Of Town, which airs this week. "I can make a little news here, which I haven't talked about to anybody, but on February 8 , I came to the end of a 26-year watchful, waiting odyssey that culminated in 12 hours of massively invasive open-heart surgery," Max says.
"I had valve repair. I found out about this 26 years ago and I knew about it and I monitored it. At the time, there was not much they could do and it wasn't as serious as it became. As I got older, it got worse. Fortunately, the protocols for dealing with it became much more advanced and I found a wonderful doctor in New York who specializes in repairing valves. Two years ago, it became life-threatening and I had to do something about it sooner or later. I did it two weeks after [Conan's 'Tonight Show'] went off the air."
While Max says he'll be turning in to TBS in November root his old TV buddy on, he seems to harbor no regrets about staying on the sidelines this time. "I tell you, [surgery] was a life-changing experience emotionally and spiritually....I've always been a person who smelled the roses, but everything looks a little brighter. Everything looks a little bit more manageable. Nothing is really that big a deal to me anymore. I've never felt better. I thought I had energy before [but] I'm a thousand percent better. I'm playing better than I ever did. I'm not looking backward. I feel wonderful about where I'm at--physically, personally, professionally."
So the show will go on, with Conan regular Jimmy Vivino stepping into the leadership role Max had for 17 years. But will the show be the same? Max thinks so. "I put a lot of time and effort into creating our little world over there, you know, with the band and the musical direction and what the band contributed, and I trust and I hope that the band retains the profile they had. [Conan] is a brilliant, hard worker. I've been fortunate to have people like Bruce and Conan--you don't run into guys like that very often."