If you need someone in rock to throw a party there is no better host than Sammy Hagar, who has become a master at assembling the all-star jam. Tomorrow (Saturday, February 18) Hagar will put his party throwing skills to great use by assembling a rock and roll dream for the Keep Memory Alive Power of Love gala.
Hagar will be joined, at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden, by John Mayer, Alice Cooper, Michael McDonald, legendary soul singer Sam Moore, REO Speedwagon frontman Kevin Cronin, Rick Springfield, Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger and comic Nikki Glaser.
I spoke with Hagar about the event, his friendships with the musicians, why he is a huge Mayer fan, the importance of Keep Memory Alive and more.
Steve Baltin: Tell me about the KMA event Saturday night.
Sammy Hagar: That’s what we’re here to talk about. Yeah. I’m almost embarrassed by all the credit I’m getting for this thing. Listen, I ain’t doing s**t except for doing what I do and helping a friend out. And at the last minute. I wasn’t planning on doing this, butI guess the Steven Tyler thing is pretty weird, but I’d rather not talk about that part of it. But I get a call from Larry and I’m going, f**k, “Of course, I’d love to do this.” I was actually planning on going to the damn event. And I figured once I was there, I was gonna be getting on stage anyway, with somebody doing something. But, yeah, it turned out pretty cool.
Baltin: This is like a benefit version of your Cabo events. I love the eclecticism. John Mayer is one of my favorite people in the world. I’ve always gotten along great with him. I love Alice. Tell me about the people that you brought out.
Hagar: Well, I didn’t bring John Mayer in, it was gonna be my next call. ‘Cause John’s a dear friend and like you, I love John Mayer. He is the most interesting guy to sit in a room and talk with. He’s clever, he’s funny, he’s intelligent. He’s talented and he’s friendly. He is just really a great guy. But no, before I got a chance, ’cause Greg Phillinganes was his band leader for his whole last tour. So Greg got to him right away. So Greg gets as much credit for any of this stuff as me. I just called my manager Tom Consolo and got Kevin Cronin and of course Rick Springfield, quick boom, they were there. I had just done an event with Alice in Hawaii for Shep Gordon. We did a fundraiser for the food bank in Maui with Alice and, a bunch of people, Lucas Nelson. Who else was there? Mick Fleetwood of course. A bunch of Maui people. It was really great. And Richie Sambora who’s really a great guitar player by the way. I really got to appreciate him more ’cause he jammed with me, he jammed with everybody. It’s like, “Okay, here’s Richie, here’s our house guitar player.” But he’s really an excellent guitar player. I appreciate him more than ever. But anyway, so I just did that with Alice. So Shep said, “Hey, are you doing that event?” I said, “Yeah.” And he goes, “Then I’ll let Alice do it too.” So I didn’t really have to get on the phone and hustle these guys, but I think by me being the one that was now kind of the ringleader of the thing, it allowed everyone to feel more comfortable about telling me, “Sammy’s doing it. That’s great. We’ve, done this with Sammy before.” ‘Cause I’ve done this a hundred times with everybody and all over. So yeah, we’ve all done this together and it feels fun. It’s like you go, All right, I get to hang out with my buddies. We get to go out and yeah, and do a really good thing.
Baltin: Tell me about the charity and why it’s important for you to be there.
Hagar: Larry Ruvo and Camille, this thing’s so incredible what they do. This is the type of charity that is like world renowned, world class. You can be anywhere in the world in this organization, the Ruvo Center can help you, with brain disease. As we all get old, my whole game about it when I talk to Larry about it, is,” Larry, I’ll do anything for you for this.” I’m 75 years old. I’m sitting there waiting for starting to forget the lyrics. It ain’t funny. But I may need your help eventually, if I’m gonna continue on with this business. I don’t use a teleprompter, by the way. Never have, ever. [But] it’s called Keep Memory Alive. It’s the Power of Love it’s the nickname for it which is a wonderful thing because it’s all these people that, it’s in a loving way that we’re coming to support Keep Memory Alive. And the Ruvo Center, I’ve been there twice for other things, I just did a full body scan. They have a full body scan, I did a body scan. They have a full body thing that is three Tesla, the biggest MRI machine before now was one and a half Tesla. You get in this noisy thing, it sounds like you’re in a engine of a jet airplane. It’s bizarre. But I went and did it just because the technical abilities they have at this center that’s in complete connection with the Cleveland Clinic. A lot of people can’t afford to go to the Cleveland Clinic, a lot of people are not in good enough shape to go to the Cleveland Clinic. There’s all these things you go right there to this in Vegas, you’re in the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas and not only is it the most beautiful building in America, it’s [chuckle] it’s really the latest and the greatest for brain disease and I just think between Parkinson’s and the Multiple Sclerosis, those are things that are specialty things. You can’t just go to your local hospital and get, for Alzheimer’s disease. This is a real technical scientific center that needs to be supported because some people can’t afford it and they can still go there. Some people have been just sent home to say we can’t do anything for you and you can go there and you can get something done for you. It’s world-changing for those people that have those diseases. Anyway it’s a beautiful thing and because of his father’s death of it, I think Larry and Camille I think they’ve just done a great thing. That’s what rich powerful people are supposed to do in life. They’re supposed to do things like this in my opinion. And I’m just honored to be a part of it, and the musical event itself is cool.
Baltin: And talk about the auction component.
Hagar: I played it once and been there three times, the auction items are so f**king cool. It’s like go on an 80-foot yacht and cruise around the Virgin Islands with a special chef and drinking fine wines and you got Sammy Hagar on there playing some acoustic songs every now and then, “Hey, you wanna hear a song?” Stuff like that don’t come every day. You don’t see that [laughter] in your every day charity event and the entertainment. It’s like the eclectic artist Paula Abdul being on this, John Mayer, Michael McDonald, Sammy Hagar, Alice Cooper, Sam Moore. I’m gonna do “Soul Man” with Sam. We’re gonna be Sam and Sam instead of Sam and Dave. That kind of s**t’s cool man. Anyway I’m excited. It’s f**king Saturday night. I’m excited for rehearsal on Friday night and I hate to rehearse Steve, that’s a closest thing I have to work.
Baltin: When you do an event like this, do you get to play with everyone? Do you step aside? How do you do it?
Hagar: That’s a great question ’cause I’ve been wanting to get this out. Originally Larry was asking me in the middle of the night, I’m in Maui, I’m on vacation with my family, it’s right after Christmas. And I get the phone call from Larry and it was almost like he was saying “Can you take Steven’s place? Can we make this a tribute to you?” And I’m going “Whoa let me work this out for you. How about if I just call all my friends and we just have a big party like I do at the Cabo Wabo?” Then pretty soon he started getting more artists and we started seeing how we’re gonna do this. I’m really able to do whatever I want, I just told him I want to open this show, I like opening shows. When it’s an event I like getting the party started, I’m good at that. These people are going to just finish eating and drinking, and socializing, and auction items and holding their paddles up and then I’m gonna walk out there and say, “Hey let’s get this party started and kick off ‘Mas Tequila,’ bring a waitress out, bring me a bottle of Santo Tequila, hold it in the air and say, “Okay everybody, raise your glasses. Let’s have a toast to Camille and Larry, and let’s get this party started.” And get everybody do a shot and then say, “Woo. I’m going all the way down south.” And get the party started, right? And once I do that, then I’m gonna introduce one of my friends. I don’t know if it’ll be Rick Springfield or it’ll be Kevin Cronin, but somebody else. I’ll introduce somebody else. I’ll come out and give them a high five. They’ll do their song.
Baltin: How will you introduce Rick?
Hagar: There’s a story about when Rick Springfield did my song, “I’ve Done Everything for You.” He had a top five hit with it worldwide, it sold five million copies. And when I released it three or four years before that, it was a 100 percent bomb. And I asked Rick Springfield the first time I met him, “Rick, why do you think the song was such a hit for you and not for me?” This is like in the ’80s. He goes, “Dude, I’m better looking than you” [laughter]. So, we’re going to say, “Here he is, the handsomest man in rock and roll.” And then we’re going to come out and sing the chorus with him. “I’ve done everything for you.” ‘Cause I wrote the song. And then he’ll do “Jesse’s Girl,” and then we leave.
Baltin: How often have you and John played together?
Hagar: John and I played in Cabo twice. He just showed up down there, we got on stage and for hours he’s done Acoustic-4-A-Cure with me. I went to Dead rehearsals a couple times, and ended up getting on stage. John starts playing the piano, he starts playing “Love Walks In.” John’s so freaking talented, he can play anything. He’d play all of Eddie’s stuff, and I ended up singing a bunch of stuff with The Dead. John is a dear friend. John’s the kind of guy that calls me on FaceTime. He’s driving his car, and he’s got music on. He’s going, “Sammy baby. Oh, my man. I just gotta tell you, I’m sitting here driving, I’m listening to 5150 record. Or I’m listening to the OU812 record.” He’s always listening to a record. He’s going, “You’re so f**king amazing.” He goes, “Dude, I love you, man. You’re such an inspiration.” He’s that kind of a guy. He sits and he tells you these wonderful things. You’re going, “John Mayer is talking to me like this? That talented fricking monster he is.” But he is so sweet, he is such a wonderful person. And he is the kind of guy that when you ask him to do something like Acoustic-4-A-Cure, boom, he’s there. I asked to introduce John. I said, “If there’s one thing I want to do at this event, I want to introduce John.” Because you know as well as I do, I’ve played with some amazing guitarists in my life. And this guy is as good as it gets. People don’t think of him as a genius guitar player. As good as anybody on this planet. They think of him as this pop singer with these songs. Man, I’m looking at him, everybody thinks I’ve had a great career. I’m going, “Man, John Mayer, he’s the guy. And he joins The Dead. That’s the last pop star. You would think The Dead would say, “Wait a minute, what are we doing with John Mayer?” But he’s that good. He’s good enough to be in The Dead. I think he’s one of the greatest artists of our time. Last two decades, John Mayer, right in the top.
Baltin: How much fun is it then to do an event like this where you get to cover such a gamut of people who are all your friends like Alice?
Hagar: The realest, nicest dude, boom. What you see is what you get. When we did this event in Maui with Shep Gordon and all these guys. And Alice did “Back Door Man,” The Doors’ version and he didn’t have no makeup. He’s wearing like a shiny rock and roll kind of suit. And he’s standing up there playing harmonica and singing, “I’m your back door man.” And I’m going, “F**king Alice, look at him. He’s like a regular rock star.” Now all of a sudden, he can pull it off. And I said, “Alice, when did you make this transition?” He said, “With the Vampires. I learned how to be like just a regular rock guy like you, my whole time I’ve been this actor.” It was really great. So I was very impressed that I’ve never seen Alice do that. He always in costume before, doing his thing. So that was impressive.
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