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How Sammy Hagar got the nickname “Red Rocker”

Sammy Hagar


How Sammy Hagar got the nickname “Red Rocker”

The singer, songwriter and guitarist Sammy Hagar was born in 1947 in Salinas, California and started his musical career in 1972 joining Montrose one year later. He was a member of the band for two years, being fired in 1973. In 1976 he released his first solo album, which was followed until the mid-80s by many other praised records and many hits like “I Can’t Drive 55”, “Heavy Metal” and “There’s Only One Way To Rock”.


In 1985 he was invited to join Van Halen as the replacement for David Lee Roth and gained even more fame releasing many successful albums with the band. After leaving the group for the first time in 1996, Hagar focused again on his solo career and was part of many other projects.

Since the 70s he has an interesting nickname, which is The Red Rocker. But what is the origin behind that nickname?

How Sammy Hagar got the nickname “Red Rocker”

In 1977, Sammy Hagar released his second solo album, which had his name as the title. The cover art was a photo of him getting out of a red car, with red clothes and everything else on the street had also the same color. However, that’s not where the nickname came from. It was actually after playing a show in Seattle that he got baptized as The Red Rocker.

When touring to promote that record, Sammy accepted to be part of the ‘Rising Stars Concert Series’, which was promoted by a radio station. New or less famous artists would promote their band and new album but would also play a concert with a price ticket of only 1 dollar. He explained how it worked in an interview with Audacy in 2019 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage). “The ‘Rising Stars Concert Series’ was a dollar concert, you paid 1 dollar.”

“I played the Paramount theater and I did it in Portland, Seattle. That’s when I broke those towns. I came back from that and sold them out with a hard ticket. (Then I) moved right into the arenas in the next year. It was such a great radio program. You would take your new band and your new album and (you would charge one dollar for the ticket then for the show). That’s where I got the name ‘The Red Rocker’.”

He continued:

“I was dressed in red, it was for my red album. The newspaper (in the next day) said ‘Sammy Hagar, the Red Rocker performed…’. He did a nice review. (The next day) Some fan (was) waiting for me outside the hotel room. I’m coming out the next morning and he says ‘Hey, you would sign this newspaper thing?’ I signed. (Then) he said ‘Would you put the ‘Red Rocker’ on it?’ I said: ‘Yeah”. (So I signed) Sammy Hagar, the Red Rocker’. Next thing I know, walking down the street (people would say) ‘Hey Red Rocker’. It happened right there in Seattle,” Sammy Hagar said.

During that show Hagar had a red Les Paul, was using red pants, shirts and shoes while singing the song “Red”. The track was from his self-titled album released in 1977. So that was the main reason why the newspaper described him as The Red Rocker.

Hagar made sure that the fan could have free tickets to see him for the rest of his life

He revealed in an interview on his Beach Bar Rum social networks in 2023, that the fan was called John. Curiously, he had the chance to talk to him about 15 years ago and found out that he had seen him more than 100 times live. But after that meeting, Hagar said that he made sure that John would never pay again to see him live again. The fan would have free tickets for his concert for the rest of his life.

“This guy showed up about 15 years ago and it was his 100th show to see me. He paid to see me 100 times, showed me all the tickets. I said: ‘John, you will never pay for another Sammy Hagar concert again as long as you want’. He doesn’t (pay anymore). I gave him my office information (but John’s) gotten sick since then. He is in and out of the hospital for a lot of times. (From time to time) one of his buddies comes (in the crowd) with him on facetime and (I see him from stage).”

“Other times they bring him on a wheelchair. But the truth is, he is kind of responsible for people calling me ‘The Red Rocker’. I became ‘The Red Rocker’ because of that exchange, you know. It happened organically after that. But the truth of the matter is, he was the first one to call me The Red Rocker and asked me to sign my name as The Red Rocker and I started doing it. I became The Red Rocker because of Big John,” Sammy Hagar said.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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