By Veronica Dudo
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (CBS) – Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Sammy Hagar visited Atlantic City for a performance and a very special presentation. Known as the “Red Rocker,” Hagar donated $10,000 to St. Nicholas of Tolentine Roman Catholic Church in Atlantic City. He presented Monsignor William Hodge with the check, which will help the church continue to feed those in dire need through their food pantry. Over the last 15 years, St. Nicholas has fed over 35,000 inner city residents.
The former Van Halen band member and recent creator of Cabo Wabo Cantina and tequila has “Sammy’s Beach Bar” at Bally’s Casino, which opens for the summer season this Memorial Day weekend. Hagar has been very busy in his post-Van Halen days, penning an autobiography, Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock, which reached #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list, and touring with his new band, Chickenfoot. The rock and roll legend talked about his philanthropy work, his new rum and his days with Van Halen and explained the significance of his new band’s name.
Why is giving back to the community so important to you?
Because I have a business here, number one, and number two, the community–it needs it. I’m not exaggerating, you can drive around here and see there’re a lot of homeless people and a lot of people that need food, and when I see children that aren’t eating, that’s when I get touched. So my first goal is to help children as much as possible, because they’re the future of this planet. Anywhere I have a business, I do a lot for the communities. And on this Chickenfoot tour, for the first time, every city I go to I donate at least $2,500 to the Food Bank. And it has nothing to do with the business, and I don’t really have a reason for it except that I want to do it. [Laughs]
Who came up with the name “Chickenfoot,” and what does it stand for?
It stands for three people. You know, like a little chickenfoot, and I came up with it years ago and I never got to use it. [Laughs] So, when we were looking for a name, we nicknamed it “Chickenfoot” at first, and now it’s Chickenfoot. And everyone said, “Well, what a stupid name,” but now when a band’s this good, all of a sudden it becomes a cool name.
In addition to touring, what else do you have coming up?
When this tour’s over, I’m going to move back to Hawaii for a few months and really get this rum project together. It’s so good, it’s the best friggin’ rum, I’m telling you–and I want to even make it better. We’re experimenting with pineapples, we’re experimenting with coconuts and guavas and passion fruit–all the great Hawaiian flavors–to infuse the rum with, but we’re going to do it with organic fruit that I’m growing on my property. I have 4,700 Maui Gold Pineapples growing right now, and when I get over there, we’re going to start infusing the white rum because it takes a long time to age. I don’t want to wait five years to come out with my second brand of it, so we’re going to just infuse the white rums and make all these flavors.
How did your foray into the rum business start?
I went to a guy who made the best vodka I’ve ever tasted called Pau Vodka, and I don’t own that company, so I’m not involved, but he lives in Hawaii. And I said, “I would like to meet this guy.” I went to go meet him, and he was in the middle of a big sugarcane field, and I said, “Why aren’t you making rum?” and he said, “You want me to make you some rum?” And I said, “Yeah” and he said, “I’ll make you the best rum you ever tasted in your life.” I said okay, and he made it. I tasted it and I said, “How much can you make?” And we just started buying up all the sugarcane.
Looking back on your Van Halen days, do you have more positive memories than negative ones?
Oh, absolutely. The only negative ones are the last tour and the very end, but I had nine fantastic years that I have nothing bad to say about. My years in Van Halen [were] some of the greatest times of my life.
Veronica Dudo is an award-winning journalist covering everything from breaking news to red carpet celebrity interviews. Follow her on Twitter @VeronicaDudo and Facebook