Sammy Hagar Recalls First Meeting Eddie Van Halen in 1978
Sammy Hagar wouldn’t officially join Van Halen until 1985, but his first meeting with members of the band actually happened years before that. He found himself on the same bill with the band on Sept. 23, 1978, at Anaheim Stadium where both were booked for Summerfest, an epic day-long concert event featuring an incredible bill headlined by Boston and Black Sabbath.
The gig was attended by an estimated 56,000 people and Van Halen would make a memorable first impression for many in the audience when they "parachuted" in for their performance. In truth, it was an elaborate stunt that had been in the works for months leading up to the show. The band themselves were on the ground the whole time – but the idea was a clever one that got the headlines that they were hoping for.
For Hagar, the event at Anaheim presented him with the opportunity to finally meet Eddie Van Halen for the first time and he recalled that moment during an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock.
“I thought he was just one of the nicest, sweetest, humblest rock stars on the planet,” Hagar recalls. “The first thing was that I was sick: I had the flu, but back then, I wouldn’t even consider cancelling a show, because I was young and pretty strong and healthy and probably with the flu, I was as good as most of the half-drugged out drunk rock stars out there doing a show in the middle of the day, I thought, ‘Well, I can compete.’ [Laughs] So I would do a show anyways, as painful as it was. So I was sick and just dehydrated [on that day in Anaheim].”
“I did the show and I think they went on right after me and it was like the whole parachute thing took so long,” Hagar chuckles. “It was like, ‘Man, what is going on? Where are these guys?’ I’m sitting there and I wanted to see them, you know? So I’m waiting and I’m not feeling good, I’m sitting in my dressing room and when they get there, I remember seeing Alex [Van Halen] sitting out in front of his trailer getting his feet wrapped – I don’t know why he was getting his feet wrapped – and Mikey [Michael Anthony]. I didn’t see [David Lee] Roth. He wasn’t around. But Eddie comes running over to my trailer in his freakin’ parachute thing, you know, they didn’t really parachute in, they were like in the back of a fuckin’ van laying down while some road guys did it and they come jumping out. It’s pretty funny. Actually, it’s a good trick, you know?”
“He [was] shaking my hand, ‘Oh, Sammy, man. I’m a big fan, you know, Montrose, we used to play ‘Make It Last’ and ‘Rock Candy’’ and all of this stuff and he goes, “Man, I’m a huge fan.” He’s standing there giving me all of this love and I was just like, “Wow, what a really great guy.” He turns around and Dave was walking by with somebody else and he goes, ‘Hey Dave, hey look, it’s Sammy Hagar, man. Wow, look! C’mon! And Dave just goes, ‘Oh, hey,’ and he keeps walking! It was classic. You know, it just goes to show that some things never change."
Like many people at that time, Hagar was fascinated by the skills of the future guitar legend. “I played guitar,” he points out. “I wasn’t just a singer – I played guitar and that fucker brought some new shit to the table and I was impressed with it and I definitely wanted to see him and meet him.”
The Anaheim meeting delivered the goods that he was looking for and the two would continue to cross paths and share conversations – with Van Halen heaping more enthusiastic praise on Hagar’s past work.“The next time that I met him, he tells me, ‘I was at the Starwood when you played with Paul Kossoff, man,” he remembers. “I used to go into my hairdresser: I took a picture of you and said ‘I want my hair like that!’ He gave me all of this shit, you know, really cool stuff. So, they were definitely Montrose freaks. I’m sure that somebody in that band probably wouldn’t ever admit it, but you know, they used to sing Montrose songs.”
Hagar thinks the Montrose connection goes deeper than some fans might realize.
“Ted Templeman basically patterned the first album after the Montrose album,” he says. “You know, this kind of song, this kind of song, a slower song here. He had his little formula and four songs per side on the album – no more than that and a song’s gotta be only this long and name it after the guitar player’s name, right? They used to be Mammoth, [that] was the name of the band when Ted got ‘em and then he turned them into Van Halen, Eddie’s name and you know, the whole nine yards. I’ve gotta tell ya, there’s a lot of truth to that.”
“Mikey swears and Eddie’s told me, but I never really pursued this, that Ted Templeman at one time said to them, “Why don’t we get Sammy Hagar in the band,” before they made the first album. You know, I don’t like to sit there and go, “Well, what happened? What did they say? Who did what?” But I guess that really happened in a conversation – whether or not the whole band was involved or not, I don’t know. But Ted brought that up in a meeting. I never got the call. It would have been interesting if I would have. I mean, that would have been a strange thing. I think Dave did a real good job for them for a long time so you know, it all worked out for everybody.”
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