Van Halen fans all know the two major eras of the band — the original era featuring lead singer David Lee Roth, the “Van Hagar” era with Sammy Hagar. There was also the album and tour with Gary Cherone. But most fans are unaware that during the Summer of 1996, before they auditioned Cherone, the band auditioned singer Mitch Malloy. During his audition, Eddie, Alex, and Michael jammed a few Van Halen classics and Mitch did his thing. One track from Mitch’s audition has leaked online, so now you can listen to him singing “Panama.“
Mitch did a new interview with Classic Rock Magazine. Here’s the Van Halen portion:
Born in Dickinson, North Dakota, Mitch Malloy found cult fame with a self-titled debut in 1992. Later the same decade the singer/guitarist auditioned for the job later awarded to Gary Cherone in Van Halen. Malloy now has six studio records to his name, the most recent of which being last year’s Shine On. (Shine On is available from www.mitchmalloy.com and via iTunes).
Let’s talk about your link with Van Halen. So the story goes, the band offered you the position as replacement for Sammy Hagar, but their manager Ray Danniels, who also represented former Extreme man Gary Cherone, railroaded his client through the door.
Ray called me [after the audition] and said: “I think you’re the next singer in Van Halen – I can’t imagine anyone better for the job. But if you don’t get the job then I want to manage you and when people become tired of artists wearing their pyjamas and looking at the floor then you’re going to be a huge star.” Quote unquote.
So what changed?
I don’t know. I only know that Eddie [Van Halen] told me I was in the band. Then the whole MTV presentation with David Lee Roth happened, which I didn’t know about. I got upset and called them and it all kind of imploded. My manager sent them a letter saying that I’d “respectfully passed” on the gig, which they couldn’t believe.
How did it make you feel?
Really sad, I mean… I was actually in Van Halen – even if it was just for that moment. I’d had the kiss on the cheeks, the hugs, the congratulations [from the band]… that had all seemed pretty official to me.
Did the experience cause you to step away from rock music and into the realm of country?
That happened accidentally. I just went to Nashville to write songs. But I was upset. In my life now, that’s not the case. I’m a father, a husband; I love family and my life. But when my career didn’t do what everyone in New York said it would – people had told me, and I hate to even utter these words: “You’re going to be bigger than Bon Jovi” – I was bummed, man.
And yet Edward Van Halen financed your return to the rock arena with 2000’s Shine.
Yeah, Ed was like my big brother back then and he really loved those songs. We’re no longer in contact but I had all of his phone numbers because I was a member of the inner circle.
Get the full story on Malloy’s little-known audition for Van Halen here.