AUSTIN — Sammy Hagar is still holding out hope for one last run with Van Halen.
Not for his sake, but for that of the fans, he said Thursday at the South By Southwest Festival.
Hagar, who replaced David Lee Roth as frontman of the hard rock band in 1985, has reached out to his former bandmates since the deaths of many big names in music such as David Bowie and Glenn Frey.
"The last thing I wanted to do was all of a sudden find out you are sick or something and realize you have this bad blood and you don't want to take it to the grave," the 69-year-old singer and guitarist said during an engaging hour-long onstage discussion.
Hagar, who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with Van Halen in 2007, says "a "Sam and Dave" reunion with the full band including Roth and bassist Michael Anthony would be his "dream come true" for their fans.
"I don't do anything for money, fame or fortune anymore in my life," said Hagar, who has cultivated a hugely successful business career offstage. "I do things that make money and I do things that make me more famous, but I don't do it for those reasons," he said. "I think the fans would die and go to heaven."
He imagines how it would play out: Roth could "do two songs, go smoke a cigarette, I go out and do two songs, go back and have a drink (and) back and forth all night," Hagar said. "The competition for that would be great. He'd (play) Panama and Runnin' With the Devil and I'll be going, 'Damn, I gotta step it up.' I'm up for it."
It would require some fence-mending. As for Van Halen, Hagar said, "we were friends up until (near) the end. For nine years, Eddie (Van Halen) and I were neighbors and writers together, best friends."
Now, he says, "I don't know if we can ever get along again because it got so bad."
In the early 1970s, Hagar was "thrown out of" Montrose as its lead singer and rhythm guitarist. "When I left that band, I said I was only going to play with friends," he said. "I can't play with people I don't get along with. It hurts the music and the performance and it just hurts your life and lifestyle is more important than anything to me."
This June, Hagar will tour with his band The Circle, made up of drummer Jason Bonham, bassist Michael Anthony and guitarist Vic Johnson. And he will also host his annual Acoustic-4-A-Cure benefit May 15 at The Fillmore in San Francisco. Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters will serve as co-host along with Hagar, since co-founder James Hetfield will be on tour with Metallica. (More information at redrocker.com.)
And he's currently filming the second season of Rock & Roll Road Trip With Sammy Hagar on AXS TV. After his SXSW discussion here Thursday, Hagar went to a nearby club and met with Darryl McDaniels of Run-D.M.C. to record a segment for an upcoming episode, including a discussion on the cross-pollination of hip-hop and rock before teaming up on performances of It's Tricky and Rock Candy, a song Hagar co-wrote in 1973 while in the band Montrose.
Hagar has been a hit in business, too. He made smaller investments long before he built his Cabo Wabo cantina in Mexico and launched the tequila brand that he famously sold for $100 million. "I was poor growing up. When I got my first bit of money my mom ... (she said), 'You gotta save your money. You gotta make investments. You are going end up broke, drug addict alcoholic in jail' and I was like, 'Man, I don't want to do that.' She instilled it in me."
He bought homes for his mother and sister and "built an apartment building and my nieces and nephews ran it," Hagar said. "Those were the kind of businesses I did."
"Those kind of investments turned out really well. So everybody thought I was smart," he said. "I'm not sure I'm that smart. I'm a pretty lucky guy and I surround myself with good people."
Building the Cabo Wabo cantina "was not business.
It was strictly passion," he said. He wanted the tequila bar as a place he and friends could come relax and jam together. "It has turned into an unbelievable business." His new spirit Santo Mezquila, a joint operation with Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, just began being distributed in Texas, he told the crowd.
Sammy Hagar, Adam Levine band together for a tequila -- with a twist By the way, Hagar still can’t drive 55. "I like to drive fast and the kind of cars I have are fast," he said. "Like the song said, I can't get my car out of second gear." But since he wrote the song I Can't Drive 55 in 1984, "I have only had one or two tickets and I've been pulled over a hundred times," he said. "It's amazing what that song did." Favorite car in his collection? A 512 Ferrari Boxer. "It's special," he said. "It sounds special and feels special."