Red Rocker pulls no punches in autobiography |

Red Rocker pulls no punches in autobiography

Tim Parsons

How would you like to have some tequila shots and listen for hours to outrageous stories told by Sammy Hagar?

Readers can do just that, minus the physical Red Rocker himself, by picking up his new book, “Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock.”

No one who has seen Hagar perform will be surprised by the author’s brutally honest approach in describing the outlandish experiences he’s had during more than 40 years as a rock star.

Hagar’s played with Montrose, Van Halen, HSAS and Chickenfoot.

“I go solo backward,” Hagar wrote. “People like Phil Collins or Peter Gabriel leave a band to go solo. I’ve always gone solo first and then joined a band.”

Hagar’s journey has been unlikely and on a path with no speed limits. But he’s a good driver.

This weekend he is in Tahoe with Sammy Hagar and the Wabos for his annual Cinco de Mayo shows. Legions of Redheads snag all the tickets in a matter of minutes and make the pilgrimage to Tahoe every year since Hagar a half-decade ago opened the Cabo Wabo Cantina in Harveys Resort and Casino.

Hagar’s charisma, work ethic, entrepreneurship, business savvy and ability to manage a rock star lifestyle without every taking it quite too far is what makes his autobiography such a success story.

“There’s only one way to rock,” he sang, but revealed there are plenty of wrong ways to rock. Two important men in his life, one his father, the other a high-profile former band member, demonstrated how to throw away a life with alcoholism. The descriptions are graphic. Hagar doesn’t hold back, nor does he appear to have animosity to those whose character flaws have adversely affected his own life and career. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of name-dropping going on here, and this book surely has pissed off some people.

And the women in his life? My only complaint about the book is that Hagar devoted so much time explaining his failed first marriage. Maybe it was to justify the divorce.

My skepticism comes with the claim of 75 groupies in a week. I’d thought Red Rocker was a reference to his hair.

Hagar talks in the same voice in his book as he does during interviews, only with more f-bombs. He even started out with one in the opening paragraph.

His description of how he came up with the term Cabo Wabo was almost word-for-word from a phone interview I had with him a few years ago. Except there was a slight twist at the end. Sometimes stories get better the more often they are told. I suspect a little author’s hyperbolic license comes with some of Sammy’s tales.

But make no mistake, Sammy’s wild ride is real, and his book is an entertaining page-turner. There are plenty of Lake Tahoe anecdotes also with tidbits about Hagar’s oldest son, Aaron, who lives here.

How about the time he was making his usual trip from the Bay Area to Los Angeles in his Ferrari at 150 mph. Hagar didn’t know the cops were trying to catch him until he was stopped by a roadblock. Then they let him go with a warning.

Hagar drives like he sings, and he has to be careful to not do too many shows in a row. He skips sound checks, and in his book details the drama of making gig to gig. And the drama is always greater than a mere sore throat.

Hagar’s globetrotting adventures include happenstance encounters with Miles Davis, Robert De Niro and Mickey Hart, who elected to exit a plane bound for Hawaii after Hagar was kicked off for trying to sneak a small dog onboard. Hart and Hagar eventually made it to Maui, where the Grateful Dead drummer opened the Red Rocker’s ears to African percussion. While Hagar’s an uncompromising straight-ahead rocker, he’s always been open to every kind of music.

As successful as Hagar is as a rock star, he’s made his fortune in other ways, no doubt an indicator of memories of a dirt-poor childhood in Fontana, Calif. Hagar figured out money-making schemes in the building trade, a travel agency, and he was one of the first to make mountain bikes and he had a blend of tequila that made him somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 million.

Hagar has wanted to retire since 1984 but he doesn’t seem to know how to quit. When he is down, he is relentless in proving he can get back up. When he is successful, he is motivated to achieve even more success.

It’s easy to be captivated by Hagar. That’s why he has so many devout fans and his book so hard to put away.

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