Forty years ago, Sammy Hagar was a fresh-faced rocker from the San Francisco Bay Area, fronting a hot band, Montrose, with a big voice and star quality to spare.
He's certainly made good on that promise ever since. Hagar has gone on to front other bands -- Van Halen, Chickenfoot and HSAS with Journey's Neal Schon -- and enjoy a hitmaking solo career that's sold an estimated more than 40 million records worldwide. He's also become one of music's most successful enterprises this side of Jimmy Buffett, with a chain of restaurants and clubs in several U.S. cities and in Mexico, a tequila brand (Cabo Wabo) that he sold for a reported $80 million to Skyy Spirits in 2007 and a new line of Beach Bar Rum that he makes in Hawaii -- as well as a New York Times best-selling autobiography, "Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock," that he published in 2011.
But even with all those accomplishments behind him, Hagar doesn't feel all that removed from the newcomer who sang "Rock the Nation" and "Bad Motor Scooter" in 1973.
"I gotta tell ya, it doesn't feel any different," says Hagar, 66, who's currently on a Four Decades of Rock tour with his band, the Wabos, and Chickenfoot bandmate Michael Anthony, also a Van Halen alumnus, as special guest. "It feels exactly the same to me as it did back then.
"The only difference, I think, is that back then (music) is all I cared about. I'd drive as fast as I could to rehearsal. I'd be eating a sandwich on the way, spilling it all over myself because all I wanted to do was to get in that studio or to get to that rehearsal hall and play music. I'd be in there 10 hours and didn't care. I didn't want to leave.
"Now it's a little more like, 'We've got two hours to get this together, man,' and that's it. There's other stuff to take care of. But it feels exactly the same. It's a trip."
Hagar -- who left both Montrose and Van Halen on acrimonious terms but was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 with the latter -- says his Four Decades of Rock shows will "cherry pick my whole career" in mostly chronological order. But even as he celebrates the past there's another new album on the way -- "Sammy Hagar and Friends," which comes out Sept. 24 and, as the title suggests, features a who's-who list of collaborators including Schon, Anthony, Toby Keith, Ronnie Dunn, Heart's Nancy Wilson, the Grateful Dead's Mickey Hart, Chickenfoot and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, Chickenfoot guitarist Joe Satriani and Montrose's Denny Carmassi and Bill Church.
Hagar also covers Bob Seger's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," Buffett's "Margaritaville" and Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" on the set
Hagar says he and Seger became friends when both were recording for Capitol Records. "I was always a Bob Seger fan," notes Hagar, who says Seger offered him the 1976 smash "Night Moves" before he recorded it himself. "He's great. He's got that Detroit thing going on but yet he was rocking and had a hard edge. He sounds like an old blues singer or an old soul singer.
"That's the way I wanted to sound back in Montrose, but my voice wasn't seasoned enough to sound like that. So I tripped on (Seger) way back then and never stopped."
The first "Sammy Hagar and Friends" single, "Knockdown Dragout," pairs Hagar with another Detroiter -- Kid Rock, who he turned to after his initial choice, Metallica's James Hetfield, was unavailable.
"I like (Kid Rock) first of all, just straight-up. The guy is the real deal," says Hagar, who opened for Rock at his 2012 Comerica Park concerts. "He just knocked the song out...But the funny story is we got it and my band was sitting in the studio and we put it on and we get to his verse and everybody's looking at me like, 'Where's Kid Rock? This sounds just like you!'
"So I called him up and was like, 'Damn, Bob, what the...?' and he said, 'Hey, in that register I can't sing it any other way. You sing so damn high all the time, out of my range. When I do that, yeah, it sounds just like you.' That just cracked me up. I thought it was pretty funny."
Hagar will actually be off the road by the time "Sammy Hagar and Friends" comes out, but he'll hardly be idle. A third Chickenfoot album is already in motion, with plans to hit the studio later this year. And the rum business is going the way of the tequila -- a smashing success with several different varieties in development, but this time Hagar has no plans to sell.
"I didn't plan on selling the tequila but I got in over my head," he explains. "Now I know what I'm doing a little more. I can see, kind of, what you can and what you can't do. I've got people involved who know what they're doing , so now I think I can keep my arms around it and stay with it.
"And like everything else I do it really goes hand in hand with the music, so I feel like it's all just part of one big thing, and that's great."
Sammy Hagar * the Wabos, Michael Anthony and Rival Sons perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $30-$60 pavilion, $20 lawn with a $60 lawn four-pack. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
Send your thoughts and comments to