Sammy Hagar Remembers Ronnie Montrose’s Ego Trip
Sammy Hagar, whom ex-Van Halen bassist and current Chickenfoot bandmate Michael Anthony called “the most upbeat, positive guy in the world,” told a packed room at Toronto’s Canadian Music Week that guitarist Ronnie Montrose was the first time the Red Rocker ever encountered the typical rock ‘n’ roll ego.
Hagar sang for the eponymous band Montrose from 1973 to 1975, and wrote lyrics for songs like ‘Bad Motor Scooter’ and ‘Rock Candy.’ “When I got in Montrose, we were on a rocket ship,” Hagar told the room of CMW delegates. “Ronnie was famous. He had sold a million records, had a number one album, and had a royalty check. When I walked into his house to meet him for the first time, he had a royalty check he had just got for like 8,000 bucks. This was like 1972. And was going, ‘Wow.’ This guy was rich and famous and everything that I wanted to be.”
“I was so naïve, I didn’t even know what an ego was yet,” said Hagar, now 63.
As Hagar outlines on page 59 of his autobiography, ‘Red,’ “in Europe, Ronnie wouldn’t talk to me.” The singer recalls a particular piece of press Montrose received in Belgium that was accompanied by a picture of Hagar. “It was in Dutch, but it was a positive review about me, what a great front man, a new star, and all that bullshit. That was it for Ronnie.”
“And so I was just all googie and giggly and stuff in that band,” Hagar said. “I’m just the happiest guy in the world, just go out, you know what, just give me some food, let me get out on that stage, and Ronnie had an ego and I didn’t know. Every time I’d open up, he would get all intimidated by me. ‘What are you trying to take over the band?’ I’m like, ‘No. I just had this great idea. How about we do this?’”
A week after the tour ended, Hagar writes that Montrose decided to keep the band together but get a new singer.
“It was the first time I ran across someone that was opposing and it was weird,” Hagar continued. “I still find it weird when people oppose other people, their ideas, if it’s a good idea. Art is all about that. A band is all about everybody putting in a great idea. Chickenfoot, we haven’t had a problem yet.”