"I would sneak into my
big sisters' parties or they'd have boyfriends over and I would be peeking through the
window and they'd always have music on---Elvis, Little Richard,
Jerry Lee Lewis. I saw Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show and it really tripped me out to see
all those girls screaming for him. So that was the main appeal of rock'n'roll then.
That and the fact that it didn't look like a person who did that worked. so I thought,
'hmmm...that's what I want to be when I grow up!" But Sammy Hagar wasn't always bound
for rock stardom. Born in Monterey, he grew up in Fontana, a steel mill town in the southern
part of the state. His father, a boxer who captured the Bantamweight title in the mid-forties,
reared his sons to follow in his footsteps. "I was raised an athlete and I was really into
sports. I was boxing all the time when I was about fourteen. I was getting ready to go
professional until I took A good look at the guys in the gym one day and decided there had
to be a better way."
"I had a friend who played guitar,he would come over to my house and he was teaching me
how to play guitar. So I was mainly singing with this guy. So I asked my mom for a guitar
and she said, well I buy you a guitar if you learn how to play Never On Sunday. So this guy
learned it and showed it me, and I learned it and played it for my mom and got myself a
guitar if you want to call it that. It wasn't really a very good one but it did the job."
A succession of garage bands led to the formation of Hagar's first band, Skinny. The band
steered clear of Top 40 tunes, performed only the best album cuts they could find and
packed the clubs in the San Bernardino Area. Believing the grass is greener in San Francisco,
Skinny migrated north and eventually took a new name, The Sammy Hagar Band. "We played
everywhere. We wore a band that was just scufflin' really trying to get it happening,
trying to make a living" During this time, he built up a solid reputation in the Californian
"Ronny Montrose had just left Edgar Winter and I had seen him. Some guy said that the guitar
player had just quit and Montrose was looking for a singer. I weaseled his number out of
somebody, and called him up. He invited me over. I had 'bad motor scooter' and 'make it last'
written at the time. I played them for him and sang a little bit and we jammed it up and he
said you got it" So in 1973 Sammy joined his band. Sammy wrote six of the eight songs on the
debut Montrose LP. Montrose came to an abrupt end in Paris when Ronnie announced that he was
quitting. Sammy recorded two albums with Montrose. Montrose
March 1973 and Paper Money November 1974 before going solo
in 1976 taking the group's bassist Bill Church. Montrose's drummer Denny Carmassi later
joined Sammy's band along with keyboardist Geoff Workman.
Undaunted Sammy placed a demo he'd been working on into the hands of San Francisco deejay
Phil Charles who passed the tape along to Capitol Records. Impressed the label signed the
California native as a solo artist and released
Nine On A Ten Scale in May 1976. Over the course of the next
four years Hagar would release six more albums on Capitol Records:
Sammy Hagar (The Red Album) May 1977.
Musical Chairs January 1978.
All Night Long September 1978.
Street Machine September 1979.
Loud And Clear March 1980 and
Danger Zone May 1980. All the while solidifying his reputation as
one of the greatest live performers in rock.
From the beginning of his career Sammy sparked the interest of a wide variety of audiences.
He received some criticism for his accessibility while others condemned him for being too
heavy and loud. Evan Hosie wrote in Rolling Stone. "It's hard to reconcile such a charming
articulate fellow who casually talks about life after death and his love of science fiction
with the guy yelling to a half-crazed crowd." His music often reflected his belief in life
on other planets as well as his interest in other mystical subjects. "I´m the kind of
performer who happens live" Sammy told Jack McDonough in Billboard. "It's more coherent
for people. People would hear the records and see me on stage and not put the two together".
In 1981 drummer David Lauser joined Sammy´s band and the group began recording
Standing Hampton for Sammy´s new record label Geffen Records and it was released in January
The following year Sammy began to climb higher up on the Billboard charts with his next
LP Three Lock Box December 1982. Hagar would release four
more albums on Geffen Records: V.O.A. September 1984.
I Never Said Goodbye July 1987 and
Unboxed March 1994. Sammy played several shows with guitarist
Neal Schon bassist Kenny
Aaronson and drummer Mike Shrieve. And in May 1984 the group released a live album
Trough The Fire under the name HSAS as well as a
studio version of Procol Harum's
"A Whiter Shade Of Pale"
In 1985 after one exhaustive tour Sammy retreated to his home outside San Francisco to
rest and plan his next album. A phone call would put those plans on hold. It was
Eddie Van Halen on the line. Hagar flew down to jam with Van Halen in Los Angeles.
By the end of the session Hagar had decided to give up his solo career
and join the band. The decision was met with controversy from critics and fans of
Van Halen. He had such a different style and persona from David Lee Roth
(ex singer in Van Halen) that few thought he could maintain the group's success.
In April 1986 Van Halen released 5150 with Hagar center stage.
The album became Van Halen's first number one album and the new configuration sold out every
concert on the tour.
After the release of 5150 Sammy had to release another solo album to fulfill his
contractual obligations with Geffen Records. Eddie Van Halen played bass on the
album and co-produced it with Sammy. Originally released as Sammy Hagar in July
1987 the name was later changed to I Never Said Goodbye
in an MTV contest but no copies of the record were ever issued with that name.
Two years later Sammy led Van Halen into another international business venture. The band
opened their own nightclub in Cabo San Lucas at the tip of Baja California in Mexico.
They called the club Cabo Wabo after the song of the same name on the album
in June 1988. "That place had dirt roads when I started going there "Sammy later told
Contemporary Musicians. "I thought 'God if Van Halen ever played down here....'
When we stood onstage it was so exciting to me because it was the fulfillment one of my dreams."
Sammy later started the tradition of celebrating his birthday at Cabo Wabo every October.
Sammy Van Halen bass player Michael Anthony and Sammy's former drummer David Lauser formed a
side project that performed at Cabo Wabo several times each year called Los Tres Gusanos
("The Three Worms"). Sammy eventually bought out the other members of Van Halen and took over
the club. Cabo Wabo later became the originator of its own brand of tequila which began to
surface around the United States in 1997.
During the next eight years Sammy would release four more albums with Van Halen.
For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge July 1991.
Live: Right Here Right Now February 1993.
Balance January 1995 and
Best Of in October 1996. After the release
of Balance the chemistry in the group changed.
"The band would never let me do a solo album. I wanted to do a solo album a long time ago.
After every album I would see what our schedule was and if there would have been time I
would have done one. But they wouldn't let me. That's the truth they wouldn't let me do
soundtracks, they wouldn't let me do anything. After the Balance tour Eddie and Alex started
talking to me and the manager about, "We wanna try out other lyricists for the next record,
try to get some other guys to write lyrics for the band." I went, wait a minute, excuse me,
that's my job!. What if we get another guitar player how would Eddie like that? To come up
with the guitar parts. I said if you're going to get someone else to write the lyrics I hope
he can sing because you're going to need him. And I ment that, I was pissed. I co-wrote
every song VH ever recorded with Eddie, him and I wrote it. I wrote the lyrics and the
melodies. And if you don´t think that was good what we did maybe you should start drinking
again or something, I don't know, something is
In the summer of 1996 Sammy left Van Halen, as the band had Roth return to sing two tracks
on Best of, vol.1 "I didn't quit the band to make a solo record, they replaced me with
David Lee Roth. A lot of people don't realize that, but that's exactly what happened.
He'd been in the studio singing on my microphone with my band for two weeks before they
even told me. I was home changing brand new baby diapers and I get the phone call
father's day, June 16th, 9 AM in the morning, Sunday. I can tell you right now man,
it was jaw dropping."
Sammy Began to work on his new album Marching To Mars
in August 1996, financing the project
himself. Was it important for Sammy to create an album that would connect with his audience
immediately? "Yes and no," he confides "I was concerned about my audience, sure, but you know,
this record is so honest and so real, I wasn't worried whether my fans would like my music.
I just did it. I was confident my fans would get what I was doing. People are going to go,
"Wow, that's Sammy?". Sammy Hagar fans want me to show them something new. I think they
want me to be happy, and in turn, blow their minds. The only way to accomplish that, is
the way I did it on this album."
To Be Continued.......
Different Westwood One Radio Shows
Press Releases from Capitol/Geffen/MCA