For more than 40 years, Sammy Hagar has been one of rock music's most dynamic and prolific artists. From breaking into the industry with the seminal hard rock band Montrose, to his multiplatinum solo career, to his ride as the front man of Van Halen, the “Red Rocker” has set the tone for some of the greatest rock anthems ever written with songs like "I Can't Drive 55," "Right Now," and "Why Can't This Be Love."
He has earned the highest respect of the music industry with a Grammy Award and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (alongside Van Halen), and always has a new musical project in the works.
Along his journey, Hagar also has become a dedicated philanthropist, a New York Times best-selling author and an auspicious entrepreneur.
This time, when Hagar hits the road, he's headed to Harrah's Laughlin and bringing his latest band incarnation Sammy Hagar & The Circle to town as one of the stops on its "Full Circle Jam Tour" for a night of hot music and crazy fun Friday, April 26.
Before the show gets underway, there's a Sammy Hagar Pre-Concert Party in the El Burro Borracho Courtyard (6 p.m.), with a DJ, giveaways, food and drink specials. There is no entry fee.
Opening act S.O.S, featuring Hagar's son Andrew, will get the party started in the amphitheater.
Formed in 2014, Hagar and his super-group include Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee bassist Michael Anthony (also of Van Halen), drummer Jason Bonham (the son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham) and guitarist Vic Johnson, who have established themselves as one of the most exciting band of road warriors out there pounding the pavement.
These veteran rockers are seamlessly ripping through career-spanning hits from Montrose, Van Halen, Sammy Hagar and The Waboritas and Led Zeppelin. But they are also armed with a collection of original new songs from their debut studio album, Space Between, to be released Friday, May 10 through BMG. The first single, "Trust Fund Baby," is indicative of the lengths they've gone to in digging deep within their artistic experiences and seminal collaborative sound with Hagar's magical writing vein to produce an album that builds and explodes, song after song, around the concepts of money, greed, enlightenment and truth.
"The 10 songs on the Space Between are not just a bunch of new songs grouped together on an album," he said. "They were sewn together conceptually for a complete mental, emotional and physical experience (kind of a Three Lock Box).
"Inspiration is a beautiful thing and making this album is living proof that when the fire of creativity strikes, the songwriting process doesn’t have to be painful or a struggle," he added. "Once I had the overall vision, the lyrics and music began to just flow through me and the songs unfolded like chapters in a book.”
Raised in Fontana, California, the son of a steel worker and one-time professional boxer, Hagar’s hard-scrabble upbringing infused in him an unstoppable work ethic that has been the driving force behind his rise to the top as a musician and entrepreneur — and continues to fuel his dedication as a philanthropist.
“Being a poor kid is a little humiliating and it instilled in me a desire to be somebody,” Hagar said. “It's where all my drive comes from. I was willing to work hard to ensure I was never poor again. And now, it’s like, I still got that feeling but it drives me to wanna give back and to show kids that if you work hard there’s gonna be an open door out.”
Hagar first burst onto the scene in San Francisco as the lead singer of Montrose, whose “Rock Candy” became a certified classic rock tune.
Following a string of eight solo albums culminating with the million-sellers Standing Hampton, Three Lock Box and V.O.A., and several platinum efforts and hundreds of sold-out concert appearances across the country, Hagar joined Van Halen in 1985 and took the band to unprecedented heights, including four consecutive No. 1 albums before the band broke up in the mid-'90s. He returned to Van Halen to lead a triumphant 2004 reunion tour.
Aside from making his own mark as a hit songwriter and lead vocalist, Hagar has played with a succession of genius guitar players — from Ronnie Montrose and Neal Schon to Eddie Van Halen and Joe Satriani.
Since indulging his entrepreneurial side and launching his flagship Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in 1990, Hagar has turned a lifelong passion for great food, music and spirits into a thriving and iconic lifestyle brand that has grown to encompass an empire of successful restaurants, bars and spirits.
His annual Birthday Bash has become one of the year’s most legendary jam-sessions for rock stars to play and the party of the year for Hagar’s fans, the Redheads, each October at the Cabo Wabo Cantina. He has expanded his Cantina brand to include locations in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe and has successfully launched five Sammy's Beach Bar and Grill restaurants, (from which he donates his personal proceeds back to local charities).
In 2011, he partnered with noted celebrity chef Tyler Florence to open el Paseo, which was named by the San Francisco Chronicle among the Top 10 New Restaurants of 2011, and in 2012 he bolstered his restaurant businesses once again, opening the first Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar & Grill in Roseville, California.
Hagar’s foray into the world of spirits began as a personal quest to find a tequila worthy of the Cabo Wabo name and in 1996, he began selling his Cantina patrons a house brand of handmade tequila he had commissioned from a local multi-generational family of tequila makers in Mexico. Ten years later, he built Cabo Wabo Tequila into the second-best selling premium tequila in the United States — and sales still are going strong.
Now, 15 years after conquering the tequila market, Hagar has turned his attention to rum. As a part-time Maui resident, he again followed his "act local" philosophy, partnering with one of the island's Master Distillers, Mark Nigbur, to cultivate the very best small-batch distilled silver rum on the planet. In its first year on the market, the “Spirit of Aloha” was on Hagar’s side with Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum garnering praise and awards including being named “Best of Show” at the highly competitive 2012 Nightclub and Bar Show in Las Vegas.
Also in 2011, he saw the release of his autobiography, Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock, which reached No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller List. He continues to tour the world with his bands Chickenfoot and Sammy and the Wabos, donating back to the local food banks in every tour city they play.
His songs have been covered by other artists, including Bette Midler and Rick Springfield, whose 1981 Top Ten hit, “I’ve Done Everything For You,” was written by Hagar. Other bands have written songs about him (Thelonious Monster, Nerf Herder).
Hagar & The Circle take fans on a musical journey through rock history with a set list that spans four decades of his hits, those of Van Halen and with Bonham on board, they also tear into a few Led Zeppelin classics in a nod to Bonham's late father. It is a glimpse at a veteran band still at the peak of their game.
Bonham said the new album (Space Between) is along the lines of a "concept kind of album," meaning it's meant to be played in order, from start to finish.
"What Hagar wanted to do, was do something very different than he's ever done," he said. "Which is send you on a journey, like the old days…where the placement of each song is vital for it to make sense."
When it comes to Hagar and his music, that makes perfect sense.