Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rockstar & Entrepreneur Does It Get Any Better?

Being a rock star is a dream so few people achieve.  Being a successful entrepreneur is probably an even bigger dream now.  Being both, well does it get any better? Sammy Hagar appreciates what he has. 

Red: My Uncensored Life in RockHe has such passion for music and life, which is what makes reading his book Red My Uncensored Life In Rock so much fun. 

He grew up in California.  His grandparents were migrant farm workers. His mother, a first generation American (Italian parents), married his father when she was 15 years old.  His father “could beat up anyone.”  Sammy is the baby of his family.  The mother, with kids in tow, would flee the father more than once.  His father was an abusive alcoholic.  When his dad was sober for nine months, it was the happiest time of Sammy’s childhood. 

As with a lot of musicians, when he heard the Beatles, his career path was decided.  Sammy saw the Rolling Stones in 1964 in San Bernardino.  He and a friend (who taught him to play guitar) snuck in the venue right behind the band. He was at the band's first US show.  His mother told him if he learned how to play Never On Sunday, she would buy him a guitar. Not wanting this opportunity to pass, he learned the song and got his guitar. 

Great lesson for aspiring musicians:  If you want something bad enough you’ll get it.
“I got a record deal because I went to bed writing songs.  I woke up in the morning writing songs.  I spent every second of my waking hours trying to write songs.”  He’s a great songwriter. He’s writing the lyrics to I Can’t Drive 55 as the cop is giving him a speeding ticket. 

He never stopped touring.  After he left Montrose and embarked on a solo career, he opened for bands like Boston.  On nights off he would play smaller venues.  He was on the road constantly.  He befriended promoters such as Bill Graham and Louis Messina.  He was selling out arenas, but Capitol Records couldn’t get him past the 350,000 records sold mark.  When he signed with Geffen Records, the hits followed. 

The cliché story is the one where the musician becomes popular, has success and then it goes to his/her head.  He/she becomes complacent.   Sammy does a 180. “Success really motivated me.  When I was hungry I lacked confidence.  I was faking it.  It took fame and fortune for me to become myself.” 

No matter how famous he was, his mother reminded him that he needed something to fall back on.  He took this to heart and the entrepreneur took over. He co-founded the second largest fire sprinkler company in the US. He owned a bike shop.  He funded a travel agency.  It didn’t make him a lot of money, but he had no travel costs on the road.  I worked for such a company that was co-owned by John Telfer who was managing Joe Jackson at the time.  He funded it for the same reason. 

One of Sammy’s financial disasters was a clothing company.  He turned his “red” branding into a line of clothing.  They didn’t meet deadlines and it went under. 

His best-known ventures are the Cabo Wabo Cantinas and Cabo Wabo Tequila.  The history of both is worth the read.  A few years ago he sold 80 percent of his Cabo Wabo tequila business to Gruppo Campari for $80 million

Oh, there is also a band called Van Halen.  If you want rock star tales, there are plenty of them in this section. Sammy as it seems is  always looking for something to stimulate him.  He took a pay cut to join Van Halen.   The band’s best songs came during the Sammy years. Why Can’t This Be Love and Right Now are the standouts. 
It was not easy reading about the decline of Eddie Van Halen.  Sammy doesn’t paint a rosy picture.  Although he appears to have loved working with him, Eddie’s misery was too much to deal with.  After Sammy was pushed out of the band, you’ll wonder why he ever wanted to try a second time.

This book is inspiring for someone who wants to be a musician and/or entrepreneur.   If you’re willing to put in the hours and are passionate about your craft/project, it can be done.  Stay positive and grasp life.

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