On October 13th, Sammy Hagar the Red Rocker turned 70! Starting out in the music biz in 1967, Sammy has been rockin’ audiences for 50 years! He paid his dues with a number of early bands until he hit success and wrote his first song “Bad Motor Scooter” while in the band Montrose. Any rock musician will tell you that they cut their teeth on that first Montrose album with such rock classics as “Make It Last “ and “Rock Candy”. Then Sammy moved to solo success in the early 80’s with MTV and hits like “Three Lock Box”, “Your Love is Driving Me Crazy” and one of the best car songs ever with “I Can’t Drive 55”!
Then in 1985, you know the story, Sammy joins Van Halen with the departure of Diamond Dave. Van Halen fans label the band “Van Hagar” for Sammy’s time period with VH. They had a new sound and another nine #1 hits. Sammy left Van Halen in 1996 and has continued to play in various bands over the years as well as establish himself in the restaurant and liquor business with his Cabo Wabo Cantinas and tequila. His annual birthday bash in Cabo is legend.
His current band is The Circle, with mad guitarist Vic Johnson, his Van Halen cohort Michael Anthony on bass and 2nd generation drummer Jason Bonham are a musical force. They came to Coachman Park in Clearwater to play a nice outdoor gig on a Tuesday night. Playing from a setlist of Montrose, Van Halen, his other band Chickenfoot, Led Zeppelin and Sammy solo, there is no dead space. After having to cancel due to Hurricane Irma and change opening acts due to scheduling, Sammy came to Clearwater ready. Sammy’s son, Andrew Hagar started the show with an acoustic set.
The original opener was to be Collective Soul but due to the reschedule date couldn’t make it, so Night Ranger stepped in with their classics that included “Do You Dream about Me” and “Sister Christian”. Guitarist Kerri Kelly was on fire and Jack Blades said they love having him in the band “because they just think it is cool that he played with Alice Cooper”! Night Ranger is celebrating 35 years in 2017!
Lights and smoke introduce Sammy and the Circle, with “There’s Only One Way to Rock” and right into “Poundcake”, and then some Zep with “Good Times, Bad Times” with a nod to Jason Bonham who says he has the ”best time with this band and I have played with a few ya know”. Montrose monster “Rock Candy” is next and the diehard Sammy fans are heard, loud and clear. “I Can’t Drive 55” has the whole place singing and driving too fast. Van Halen’s “Right Now” had Sammy with a large banner with Right Now and a Florida map on it. The crowd was in overdrive at this point. Then he tells the story of finding out he was no longer in Van Halen by hearing about it on MTV. “Little White Lies” is written about this experience and was the best song of the night! Sammy was twirling around the stage and Vic Johnson was stellar on guitar as always! “Best of Both Worlds”, “Maz Mesquila” and “Dreams” came next. The encore of “When It’s Love” & and classic Led “Rock and Roll” just kept everyone wanting more. Not many leaving early on a school night either because with Sammy it is so much fun you don’t want it to end!
Don’t miss Sammy’s one night special presentation of “Red till I’m Dead” in movie theatres on December 5th! In Sarasota, it will be at the Hollywood 20 and at the Sundial in downtown St. Pete! It celebrates Sammy’s 70th birthday bash in Cabo! The next best thing to being there!
photos by Vicky Sullivan / Rock the Lens Photography