Samuel Roy "Sammy" Hagar (born October 13, 1947), known as "The Red Rocker", is an American rock singer, guitarist, composer and solo artist. Hagar was one of the three singers for Van Halen, as well as of the early 1970s rock band Montrose. On March 12, 2007, Hagar was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Van Halen. He has had the opportunity to work with some of hard rock's most famous guitarists including, Eddie Van Halen, Ronnie Montrose, Neal Schon of Journey and more recently, Joe Satriani. He currently resides in Mill Valley, California and also has a residence in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. His present musical project is as lead singer of a supergroup called Chickenfoot.
Hagar was born in Monterey, California. Although Hagar was born in Monterey, California, he lived in Fontana, and graduated from Fontana High School. He also took guitar lessons at "The House of Note" in Redlands, CA ( circa 1968–1970)—Owned by Chauncey Romero (Jacksonville, OR).
After a brief career as a boxer in the footsteps of his father, Hagar became interested in the burgeoning Southern California music scene, fronting his first band, The Fabulous Catillas.
In 1968, Hagar joined his first professional group, the Johnny Fortune Band, as a vocalist and rhythm guitarist. Reportedly, Hagar was also in some other pre-Montrose bands including Skinny, Justice Brothers, Dustcloud, Cotton, Jimmy, and Manhole.
Justice Brothers also featured drummer David Lauser.
Montrose years (1973–1975)
Hagar's first major success, however, came from his work with the group Montrose on their debut and second albums, including the Hagar-penned song "Bad Motor Scooter". After difficulties with the band's founder, Ronnie Montrose, during a European tour, Hagar departed from the group with bassist Bill Church in tow and drummer Denny Carmassi followed in 1977.
Hagar started a solo recording and touring career to increasing success. After moderate success on Capitol Records, with such albums as Nine on a Ten Scale and hits such as Red, Hagar made some personnel changes, including enlisting long time friend and former Justice Brothers bandmate David Lauser as his drummer. With these changes, and a change to Geffen Records, Hagar enjoyed hits such as "Heavy Metal", "Three Lock Box", and perhaps his best-known song "I Can't Drive 55", a gripe against the federally imposed speed limit of 55 miles per hour on all U.S. highways. (The limit was increased on certain roads in 1987, and the law repealed in 1995; the song was updated for NASCAR broadcasts on NBC in 2001 to 65, and is used in NHL Rivals 2004.) During this time, his frequent appearance in his red attire in videos and in concert would lead up to his given trademark nickname of "The Red Rocker".
In 1983–84 Sammy Hagar and Neal Schon formed the supergroup HSAS (Hagar Schon Aaronson Shrieve) along with former Foghat bassist Kenny Aaronson and former Santana drummer Michael Shrieve. HSAS did a small Christmas tour to benefit local charities and released an album, Through The Fire. The tracks which appeared on the album were recorded live, but crowd noise was removed during the mixing process to create the feel of a studio album. As intended from its start, HSAS was a short-lived project. One song in particular, a cover of "Whiter Shade of Pale" received some airplay peaking at #94 on the Billboard Pop 100 Singles chart.
Van Halen years (1985–1996)
After parting ways with vocalist David Lee Roth, the remaining members of the band Van Halen contacted many potential replacements. Given Eddie Van Halen's appreciation of Montrose and his car mechanic's suggestion, the band auditioned and quickly hired Hagar to fill the opening. With Hagar at the front, Van Halen produced four multi-platinum, #1 Billboard charting albums: 5150, OU812, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, and Balance, as well as many chart hits, including nine #1 Mainstream Rock hits.
Internal disputes eventually led to Hagar's departure from the band in 1996. Hagar disagreed with a decision to record two new tracks for the soundtrack to the film Twister, after the band had agreed to take time off following their 1995 world tour. Hagar was also opposed to the issuance of a greatest hits record at that point in the band's career. These two items were pushed by Van Halen's new manager Ray Danniels, Alex Van Halen's brother-in-law, brought in after the death of their longtime manager Ed Leffler. Hagar wanted instead to record a new studio album, but only after Eddie, Alex, and Hagar's pregnant wife had all dealt with their respective medical issues. Although there are several versions of how the split occurred, Hagar has stated that the final straw came when he was with his wife in Hawaii, where they had arranged for a natural delivery of the baby (meaning outside of a hospital), and Eddie wanted him back in the studio. Hagar claimed to have flown to Los Angeles with his wife only to discover that she couldn't fly back to Hawaii. In the ensuing argument, he claims that he was fired. Eddie, on the other hand, says that Hagar quit. The end came when Eddie started to work with former lead singer David Lee Roth instead of Hagar, and two new songs were made with Roth for Best of Volume I. When Van Halen again parted ways with Roth, instead of rehiring Hagar, the band hired a new singer, Gary Cherone.
Los Tres Gusanos
In 1993, Hagar, drummer Dave Lauser and Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony formed the band "Los Tres Gusanos" (in English, "The Three Worms"). Playing a mixture of Sammy Hagar and Van Halen tunes at Cabo Wabo, the band infrequently got together a few times a year.
Solo again (1996–2002)
Hagar went on to produce several new solo records after the split with Van Halen in 1996. In 1999, Hagar formed a long term solo band, called The Waboritas, consisting again of David Lauser on drums, as well as former keyboardist Jesse Harms, and new to the mix was former BusBoys guitarist Vic Johnson, and former Tommy Tutone bassist Mona Gnader.
Planet Us (2002–2003)
In 2002, with Van Halen still unreformed at this point, Hagar joined again with guitarists Neal Schon of Journey and later Joe Satriani to form a new side project called Planet Us. Along with Van Halen member Michael Anthony on bass and Deen Castronovo (also of Journey) on drums. Despite big intentions, the band only recorded two songs and played live a few times before dissolving when Hagar and Anthony rejoined Van Halen. The two songs, "Psycho Vertigo" and "Peephole," would not see release until Sammy's 2008 effort, Cosmic Universal Fashion.
Van Halen reforms (2003–2005)
After the successful "Heavyweights of Rock" tour (2002), where he co-headlined with David Lee Roth, (and jokingly suggested the name the "Sans Halen Tour") Hagar started thinking about his former Van Halen bandmates, calling Alex Van Halen in late 2003 from a tip by a mutual friend. In early 2004, Van Halen with Sammy Hagar was announced to the general public, culminating with a highly anticipated summer tour and a 2-CD Best Of album, entitled Best of Both Worlds featuring three new Van Halen tracks fronted by Hagar.
The subsequent tour brought on more problems, however, most notably Eddie Van Halen's alleged relapse into alcoholism, which resulted in a somewhat infamous final show in Tucson, Arizona. As the show ended, Eddie smashed his guitar on stage sending shrapnel into the audience. This caused tensions backstage after the show and eliminated the possibility of a new album. Hagar said in an interview that Eddie had changed and wasn't the same person anymore.
Sammy and The Waboritas (2006–2009)
In 2005, Hagar continued to play with The Waboritas as he toured the Atlantic coast and the Midwest and added ex-Van Halen bass player Michael Anthony, calling the band Los Tres Gusanos (The Three Worms). In August of that year, Hagar went on another mini-tour starting at DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, Michigan and then hitting the southwest before finishing at his own Cabo Wabo Cantina. Hagar's 2006 tour with The Waboritas also included a segment with Michael Anthony playing as a band called The Other Half (a reference to Sammy and Michael being the half of Van Halen that was not Van Halen by name) for a set of songs in the middle of the show, including both Hagar- and Roth-era tunes. The band also invited Kid Rock on stage at DTE Energy Theatre for a couple of songs, including covers of Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" and The Beastie Boys' "You Gotta Fight For Your Right (To Party)". Hagar also released an album and DVD called "Livin' It Up! In St. Louis" with the Wabos on July 25, 2006. Sammy has a longstanding and strong relationship with St. Louis. Often in concerts, Sammy can be seen wearing a red St. Louis Cardinals cap. Sammy has said that he credits St. Louis fans and the longtime rock radio station KSHE in St. Louis with helping to launch his professional career.
Chickenfoot (2008 - present)
Hagar is currently developing a side project called "Chickenfoot" with Michael Anthony, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani. Their self-titled debut album was released in June 2009. Hagar has said the band have a Led Zeppelin feel to them, even making direct comparisons to the band, but later redacted the comment stating he was drunk at the time. Hagar also released new solo singles entitled "Open" and "I'm on a Roll" via digital providers. The band played June 5th on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, the last day of O'Brien's first week as host of the show.