Max Weinberg

Max Weinberg said having massive open-heart surgery earlier this year influenced his decision not to join Conan O'Brien's upcoming TBS talk show.

"On Feb. 8, I came to the end of a 26-year watchful, waiting odyssey that culminated in 12 hours of massively invasive open-heart surgery," Weinberg, 59, told Fancast. "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."

Max Weinberg won't follow Conan to TBS

The condition became "life-threatening" two years ago, so Weinberg scheduled the surgery two weeks after O'Brien's Tonight Show ended. "I'll tell you it was a life-changing experience emotionally and spiritually. I owe my life to these doctors," Weinberg said. "[In valve-repair surgery] they stop your heart. I was on the heart-lung bypass machine for close to seven hours. Did it play into my decision to remain where I am? Maybe. I mean I had three months of very difficult recovery. When I say it was life-changing — I've always been a person who smelled the roses, but everything looks a little brighter."

The drummer, who had been O'Brien's band leader since his Late Night days, said the drama with Jay Leno's return to the Tonight Show didn't ease his heart troubles. "It was very dramatic," he said. "At my age, just being in this business for as long as I've been, nothing really surprises me, particularly in the landscape of television. [But] any abrupt ending to anything is shocking."

And the name of Conan O'Brien's new show is...

Now fully recovered, Weinberg, who doesn't rule out future TV appearances, said he's focusing on his family and playing with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band. And yes, he'll "absolutely" tune in when Conan debuts Nov. 8. Jimmy Vivino, a guitarist and keyboard player in O'Brien's house band, has said he will take over as band leader.

"I hope they do wonderfully well. I'm sure they will. I put a lot of time and effort into creating our little world over there ... and I trust and I hope that the band retains the profile they had," he said. "[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."