Sammy Hagar didn’t know he was forming a band when he invited drummer Jason Bonham, son of the late John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, to join him on a Florida stage years ago.
Hagar had been in a lot of bands and didn’t need another, but something happened on that stage that made him want to strike while the happening was hot.
“We played a couple Led Zeppelin songs, a couple Van Halen songs, and my song ‘Heavy Metal,’ and I instantly felt the chemistry,” Hagar told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “It wasn’t like I fired the Wabos. I just said, ‘I want this band now.’”
“This band,” called The Circle, is now comprised of Hagar, Bonham, former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, and The Waboritas guitarist Vic Johnson.
Hagar said this line-up performs the “best set-list in rock n’ roll” today.
“We play the best of Sammy Hagar, the best of Van Halen, the best of Montrose, and the best of Led Zeppelin,” he said. “It’s our heritage. Because of Jason, I get a free pass to sing Led Zeppelin songs.”
600 Seats in Wabash
Sammy Hagar and the Circle will perform at the newly restored 600-seat Eagles Theatre in Wabash on Aug. 13.
It is the first time Hagar has played a theater that small since the 1970s, according to Honeywell Foundation President and CEO Tod Minnich.
It’s a bit of an experiment for the Honeywell Foundation, which owns the Eagles Theatre and the Honeywell Center. If patrons aren’t scared away by the ticket prices necessary for such an unusual show, that may set a precedent for more in the future.
These days, Hagar is a lot of things that he never could’ve imagined he’d be when he was a kid: a rock music veteran, a philanthropist, and an entrepreneur.
When he was a kid, he thought he wanted to be a boxer. That dream ended when, at 16, he was knocked out.
“I friggin’ saw stars,” Hagar told McClatchy Business News. “Boxing was out of the question.”
Since then, Hagar pivoted to music. He was exploring glam rock when Ronnie Montrose saw him perform at a club in San Francisco. And a stint with Montrose led to a successful solo career, an on-again-off-again relationship with Van Halen, and the formation of the Hagar-fronted bands The Waboritas and Chickenfoot.
Not to mention, he opened a mountain bike shop and a travel agency, launched his own tequila brand and fire sprinkler companies, and he operates a chain of restaurants. Hagar has come a long way from his impoverished, abusive upbringing.
“I really had no idea what would happen, and I think about that all the time now,” he told TCA Regional News. “But I am a dreamer. I also keep my nose to the grindstone and don’t look around too much. Next thing I know, I’ve done the work and I’m there.
“That’s been the story of my life. People ask: ‘How do you do as many things as you do?’ Well, my sleeves are always rolled up and I have my hard hat on. I wake up in the morning, I go to work, and it’s not labor, it’s fun. I enjoy it. I figure things out. I’m just the luckiest guy in the world.”
Like all lead singers of Van Halen, Hagar had a contentious relationship with late guitarist Eddie Van Halen, who died of a stroke while battling cancer in 2020.
Hagar was not on speaking terms with Van Halen near the end of his life, but Hagar told Variety Magazine that comedian George Lopez encouraged him to make a connection.
When he reached Van Halen by phone, the conversation went something like, “‘Why don’t you respond? I’ve been reaching out. And Ed said, ‘Why didn’t you call me? Don’t (expletive) call my brother. (Expletive) call me!’ And I said, ‘I love you, man,’ and it was like, boom, we were good. It was a beautiful thing,” Hagar recalled.
Authentic Rock Experience
Now, Sammy Hagar and the Circle is the closest fans will ever get to an authentic Van Halen experience, not to mention an authentic Led Zeppelin experience.
Hagar doesn’t pretend that he can sound like Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant, but he doesn’t think anyone will be disappointed with the way the band presents these hits.
“(We) serve the music,” he said. “It sounds different because of our personalities and our character, but we’re good enough to play the songs and serve the music about as good as it can be served.”
At 73, Hagar feels like he’s just getting started.
“I’m so driven,” he told the Waterloo Region Record. “There’s so much I want to do, and there’s nothing I feel holding me back, nothing with my age or my physical health or my strength or my enthusiasm — my talent.”