Sam Roy "Sammy" Hagar (born October 13, 1947), also known as The Red Rocker, is an American rock singer, guitarist, and songwriter. Hagar came to prominence in the 1970s with the hard rock band Montrose. From 1985-1996, and 2003-2005, Hagar was the singer for Van Halen. Outside of music, he is also well-known as the founder of the Cabo Wabo Tequila brand and restaurant chain. 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 Chickenfoot.
Hagar's first major success came from his work with the group Montrose on their debut and second albums, including the first song Hagar ever wrote, “Bad Motor Scooter.” After difficulties with the band's founder, Ronnie Montrose, during a European tour, Hagar departed from the group. Bassist Bill Church (who had quit Montrose after the first album) and drummer Denny Carmassi would eventually find themselves playing in Hagar's backing band. After the album “Paper Money,” Hagar left Montrose for a solo career.
Hagar started a solo recording and touring career to increasing success. Hagar enjoyed initial moderate success on Capitol Records beginning with his debut solo album, 1976’s “Nine On a Ten Scale.” His second album, 1977’s “Sammy Hagar,” produced the hit, “Red” for which his trademark nickname is derived.
After a change to Geffen Records, Hagar enjoyed greater commercial success, starting with the 1981 album, “Standing Hampton.” The album had five singles that charted on either the Billboard Mainstream Rock or Pop Singles charts. The album featured one of Hagar’s signature hits, “There's Only One Way to Rock.”
In 1982 he released the album, “Three Lock Box,” which featured his only Top 20 solo hit, “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy,” which reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. What would become his final release before joining Van Halen, 1984’s “VOA” featured perhaps his best-known song “I Can't Drive 55.”
In 1984 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” in 1984. As intended from its start, HSAS was a short-lived project.
After parting ways with vocalist David Lee Roth, the remaining members of the band Van Halen contacted many potential replacements. In July 1985, 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. During Hagar's stint as Van Halen's vocalist, the band was often informally referred to by fans as "Van Hagar" as a way to distinguish the band from the previous "David Lee Roth albums". Internal disputes eventually led to Hagar's departure from the band in June 1996. There is dispute as to whether Hagar quit or was fired. 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 a greatest hits album “Best of Volume I.” Later, when Van Halen again parted ways with Roth, instead of rehiring Hagar, the band hired Gary Cherone, the former lead singer of Extreme.
Having jammed as a trio in 1992, Hagar, drummer David Lauser and Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony formed the harmony-singing rock band “Los Tres Gusanos” in 1993. Playing a mixture of Hagar, Van Halen, and cover songs at Cabo Wabo and in San Francisco, the band infrequently got together a few times a year. Initially active during the 1990s, Los Tres Gusanos regrouped in 2002, then again in 2005, and has performed together many times since.
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 The Bus Boys guitarist Vic Johnson, and former Tommy Tutone bassist Mona Gnader.
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, 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 Hagar's 2008 effort, “Cosmic Universal Fashion.”
After the successful "Heavyweights of Rock" tour in 2002, where he co-headlined with David Lee Roth, 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 Hagar was announced to the general public, culminating with a tour and a double disc “Best Of” album, entitled “Best of Both Worlds” featuring three new Van Halen tracks fronted by Hagar. The subsequent tour brought on more problems and old tensions were renewed, with Hagar ultimately leaving the band again.
In 2008, Hagar formed a supergroup named 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 and debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. In September 2009, the RIAA certified the Chickenfoot debut as gold.