"The reason I got into this wasn't to be a rock star, it was just to play music," Sammy Hagar recalled to Rolling Stone in 2000. "The first time I ever picked up a guitar, I dug it. In my first band, we could only play one song, “Misirlou” by Dick Dale, but we played it all day long. Finally we learned another one, and then we had two songs we'd play again and again and again."
That unpretentious spirit has carried Hagar through a colorful three-decade career that has established him as one of America's most beloved hard rockers. From his trailblazing early work with Montrose, to his prolific and popular solo career, his massively successful time with Van Halen, and currently as front man for his band Sammy Hagar and The Wabos, the veteran singer/guitarist has continued to make melodic, hard-charging rock that's short on subtlety but long on punch and personality. Performing to hundreds of thousands of concert fans, selling a hundred million CDs, winning Grammy and MTV Awards and, now, being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, are all stats that add up to one spectacular career.
Many critics consider Montrose to be America's first full-fledged heavy metal act that achieved a level of respect and influence that carries through to this day. On the group's first two albums, 1973's Montrose and 1974's Paper Money, Hagar's fiery vocals and nascent songwriting skills were well-suited to Montrose's inventive guitar work. Sammy was now on the national stage. His solo records over the next 10 years are remembered for hits like “I Can’t Drive 55,” “One Way To Rock,” “I’ll Fall In Love Again,” “Heavy Metal,” and super soundtrack songs including “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “The Girl Gets Around” from Footloose. Hagar’s single “55” sealed his status as a solo star. Three Lock Box, VOA and Standing Hampton were three hard rocking albums. His ‘70’s anthem “Red” has followed him through the years giving him his nickname “The Red Rocker” and given his fans their own identity as the “Redheads.”
In 1985, he surprised fans and industry observers by accepting an offer to join Van Halen. Hagar would remain Van Halen's frontman for the next decade. During that period, all Van Halen studio albums, 5150, OU812, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, and Balance, shot straight to #1 on the Billboard charts. Live: Right Here, Right Now peaked at #5 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge won a GRAMMY Award for “Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal” in 1991. In 2004 Hagar rejoined Van Halen for a reunion tour that wowed audiences across America.
In the interim, Sammy formed The Wabos, the band he plays with to this day. With The Wabos, he produced more great CDs and more great concerts. Hagar continued to invent numerous ways to live the fun-filled party and music-centered life. His most recent Birthday Bash celebration was anything but usual at his Cabo Wabo Cantina in the sunny climes of Cabo San Lucas. A few thousand fans and some friends including Kenny Chesney, Chad Kroeger from Nickelback, fellow Van Halen-ite Michael Anthony, Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains, Chad Smith from the Chili Peppers, Billy Duffy from The Cult, as well as Ted Nugent and Toby Keith joined in the fun.
Hagar has further shown his entrepreneurial talents as he owns and markets one of the world’s finest tequilas – Cabo Wabo. Introduced into the US in the late 1990’s, Cabo Wabo tequila has becom e one of the fastest growing and most sought after brands in the distilled spirits industry. The tequila is currently one of the top two selling ultra premium tequilas in the country, with sales growing in double digits for a number of years. Now, Sammy has a new partner, Campari that will take Cabo Wabo Tequila to the global market. Always expanding his world, Sammy has just launched Cabo Wabo Radio, an internet station that originates straight from the Cantina in Mexico. You never know what the Red Rocker will do next. But stay tuned.
Sammy remains one of music’s most beloved personalities, definitely one of the happiest and shows no sign of losing the passion that first inspired him to rock. As he told CNN in 2002, "The blues guys—John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters and all those guys—they sang and played until they died. They got onstage and played the blues and no one asked them, 'Hey are you getting too old for this?' But for some reason people think rock is different. Well, it's not."