Celebrating Sammy Hagar’s 75th Birthday
Our Experiences with the ‘Red Rocker’
By Scott Stephens
Back in 1973, I discovered a little-known band called Montrose. Their debut album was a screamer, and I was hooked. The singer blew my mind. Unfortunately, the band leader, Ronnie Montrose, had a massive ego, and the group disbanded after just three LPs. The former Montrose singer would continue making solid records as a solo artist. You may be familiar with “I Can’t Drive 55.” Since I had my driver’s license revoked three times before I was 19, I could relate.
Link to some crazy freeway antics: (I ‘can’ skate 55)
That same year I turned 19, and without a license, I somehow found a ride to the Whisky-A-Go-Go, where I interviewed David Lee Roth of Van Halen for Raw Power Magazine just before they dropped their legendary self-titled debut album. Ironically, that same year, 1979, I interviewed Sammy Hagar as well.
David and Eddie made some killer records but eventually couldn’t get along, and David was out. Not surprisingly, when Eddie V went looking for a new lead singer, he called the former Montrose frontman Sammy Hagar. Sammy jumped into the crazy world of Van Halen without missing a beat and helped the band pump out several big hits and massive-selling albums.
Highlights of the Roth and Hagar interviews: https://scott-stephens.com/raw-power-magazine/
We can argue all day about whether the David or Sammy version of Van Halen was better, but the band thrived with both of them. Personally, I love the early VH, but I’ll take Hagar over Roth as a singer, songwriter, businessman, and all-around good dude. The first two Montrose LPs are my faves from Sammy’s storied career.
In the summer of 2011, Liquid Blue performed at Sammy’s Cabo Wabo Cantina in Baja, CA. We must have done well because a few months later, we received a call about opening a show at the MGM Grand in Vegas with Sammy Hagar as the headliner and Styx as the supporting act.
Reader article on the MGM & Cabos shows: https://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/jam-session/2011/nov/17/backstage-report-locals-open-for-sammy-hagar/.
Just a few months later, in the spring of 2012, I received a call from Sammy’s management. The legendary artist was looking for a kick-ass band to back him at a local San Diego show. After some discussions, Liquid Blue was chosen to be Sammy’s backing band for this show. We did an hour-long set and proceeded to “Rock the Nation’ (or at least the town of La Jolla) with the ‘Red Rocker,’ including songs from Van Halen, Montrose, and his solo hits. The show was a success, and Sammy spent some time with us before we hit the stage together.
UT article on the show: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/entertainment/music/sdut-sammy-hagar-liquid-blue-2013apr24-story.html
Interview with Liquid Blue singer Jayda Jeon about this show: https://medium.com/@entertainmentwritinggroup/jayda-jeon-doesnt-call-herself-a-rockstar-yet-she-finds-herself-onstage-performing-with-them-bac4e94823d
In 2014, having learned so many Hagar tunes, Liquid Blue released an EP Tribute to the Red Rocker. Listen here: https://open.spotify.com/album/150Zc9VoUlyLJq0SIrlrWA?si=YlWmEWCjQHutHnMmAIVXsg
On this, his 75th trip around the sun, I’d like to wish Sammy a rockin’ birthday. As is his tradition, a big bash is happening in Cabo tonight.
Happy Birthday to our friend, the ‘Red Rocker!’