By Tim Parsons, Lake Tahoe Action (TahoeDailyTribune.com)
For Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a time to commemorate the victory over France in 1862’s Battle of Puebla.
For Tahoe, the weekend closest to Cinco de Mayo means Sammy Hagar is coming to town.
Every year at this time the Red Rocker makes the drive from his Marin County home to Tahoe (which for him probably only takes an hour or so) to perform some shows at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. He also checks on his restaurant, the Cabo Wabo Cantina, where he sometimes gets onstage for an impromptu performance. Plus, he gets to see his son, Aaron, who lives at South Shore — the 2007 Angora fire missed his house by only a few yards.
Hagar and his band, the Wabos, play at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 1-2, in the South Shore Room. The show sold out months ago, but a handful of tickets might become available around show time.
“There will be a cancellation line, but historically most Sammy fans always show up,” said John Packer, Harrah’s director of entertainment.
“It doesn’t matter to me if I don’t make one new fan,” Hagar told Lake Tahoe Action last year. “My goal is to not ever lose one because they are the best people on the planet.”
After this week’s show, Hagar will go on the first tour of a new supergroup, Chickenfoot, which includes guitarist Joe Satriani, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and bassist Michael Anthony, who played with Hagar in Van Halen and occasionally with the Wabos.
Although Hagar has spoken with Lake Tahoe Action on several occasions, he did not speak with us this time. It is unknown if Anthony will perform in Tahoe this weekend, or if Hagar will keep the Wabos together after he hits the road with Chickenfoot.
Packer said Chickenfoot has been offered a spot to perform in Harveys Summer Outdoor Concert Series.
Chickenfoot’s self-titled debut album will be released June 9.
“It’s almost classic hard rock, but I don’t want to say classic because it’s all brand new songs,” Hagar said in a television interview for Fox News Channel’s “Red Eye.”
“There are a couple of serious songs on here, but I only get serious when something really gets me mad or there’s something that I’m really serious about, and then I’ll get serious,” he told reporter Greg Gutfeld. “The rest of the time I just want to have fun and bring love and joy to the world.”
Hagar’s been seriously bringing love and joy to music fans ever since he attended the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Hagar decided to dedicate himself to music and moved from Riverside, Calif., to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he achieved stardom in the band Montrose.
He later had a successful solo career before joining his first supergroup HSAS in 1983, which included Journey guitarist Neal Schon, Foghat and Derringer bassist Kenny Aaronson and Santana drummer Michael Shrieve. Hagar Schon Aaronson Shrieve made just one album, but a year later Hagar joined Van Halen, replacing lead singer David Lee Roth.
Hagar has since gone solo again, opened three Cabo Wabo Cantinas and started a brand of tequila, which he sold 80 percent of to Gruppo Campari in 2007 for $81 million.
He continues to be a spokesman for Cabo Wabo Tequila.
“They got the good deal because I don’t know how to give 20 percent,” Hagar said. “If I had 1 percent, they would still be getting the same as if I owned the whole brand. I only know how to do things one way. Pedal to the metal. I can’t drive 55.”
Hagar often tells the story of how he came up with the expression “Cabo Wabo.”
He was driving his car, considerably less than 55 mph, in Cabo San Lucas, and in the road was a man staggering so badly that the Red Rocker couldn’t pass him. Perhaps the tequila made him do it, but “the guy kept bouncing into a barbed-wire fence and he was bleeding and stumbling out into the middle of this small road,” Hagar said.
Hagar described the man as doing the “Cabo Wabo.” After he told the story a few times, he realized he had stumbled across an idea. And the name was created for Hagar’s Cabo Wabo club in Mexico and later at Lake Tahoe. And, of course, the tequila.
“It’s the funniest thing,” he said. “You never know what your greatest idea is when you first have it. After a while you stop and say, ‘Wait a minute, this could be something.’ ”
Signature Sammy Hagar singles include “Straight to the Top” (1979), “Piece of My Heart” (1982), “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy” (1983), “Eagles Fly” (1987), “Mas Tequila” (1999) and “Sam I Am” (from the Livin’ It Up album, 2006).
Hagar has two current singles: “Open” and “I’m on a Roll.”
To this day, Hagar’s most popular song remains 1984’s “I Can’t Drive 55.”
The song was hardly a case of poetic license.
“I spent a lot of time in the back seat with binoculars looking for cops while my dad drove 130, 140 mph,” Aaron Hagar told Action last year.
Dad confirmed the story.
“My kids were on spy patrol,” Sammy Hagar said. “(I told them) ‘I’m watching the road. I’m not going to kill us, but you gotta watch for cops. Here comes an on-ramp. Watch that on-ramp because I ain’t going to be turning my head at this speed.’ At least I was trying to do the right thing.”
Aaron Hagar has several new paintings on display at Marcus Ashley Galleries in the Raley’s Center. His latest series is not a surprising subject: race cars.