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A respectful retirement

A few installments ago in this space I wrote about aging rock stars whotry desperately to maintain mainstream relevance long after theirplatinum-selling prime.


A ROCKERS’ GUIDE TO AGING GRACEFULLY, PART 2: A few installments ago in this space I wrote about aging rock stars who try desperately to maintain mainstream relevance long after their platinum-selling prime.

I was specifically referring to Poison lead singer Bret Michaels and his train wreck reality TV show Rock Of Love, but there are numerous other examples — think Motley Crue’s Vince Neil and his stint on The Surreal Life.

But if you ever wanted to know the ideal rock semi-retirement recipe, take a few notes from Sammy Hagar.

The former Van Halen front man has shunned reality TV offers and cheesy publicity stunts in favour of playing smaller gigs for his tight group of fans — he played to a crowd of about 5,000 at Casino Rama last week, while in some U.S. cities he still manages to fill arenas — and hasn’t panicked about relatively miniscule record sales.

Unlike others whose bands dissolve or change lead singers, Hagar, who gained fame with the claim that he just couldn’t drive 55, seems to be cruising at 60.

In fact, Sammy’s cashed in on more than just his musical talents.

In 1996, after being fired (or did he quit?) from Van Halen for the first time, the Red Rocker decided to take up tequila making as a hobby and to have a new top-shelf liquor to offer at his club in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

What followed was the premium tequila Cabo Wabo.

Hagar marketed the brand himself over the years to save money and managed to get the spirit into enough bars that last year it was ranked as the second-best-selling premium tequila in the U.S.

No small feat for a guy who many critics and fans considered only second-best to original and current Van Halen front man David Lee Roth.

But here’s the kicker (unemployed rock gods, pay attention): Hagar sold an 80 per cent stake in Cabo Wabo to the Campari group last year for a whopping $80 million.

Faced with difficulties marketing the tequila worldwide, Hagar needed a strong corporate alliance to grow the brand.

Rock purists may think Sammy sold out by rocking his way into the business world in the first place, but here’s a guy who could have faded into obscurity when Eddie kicked him to the curb for the second time, but instead managed to translate his passion for tequila into a hugely successful business venture.

“I started this company from scratch … in my little club in Mexico that I built with my own money and my own two hands,” he says of noting the differences between starting and building a business versus merely endorsing a product.

When asked about his musical contemporaries selling their souls for an extra 15 minutes of fame on reality shows, Hagar points to the fact that it’s often record label management that encourages aging artists to jump onto TV to gain exposure.

Sammy’s still not having any of it. Think what you will of his music, but the man’s got the right idea when it comes to rock retirement.

“I’m not trying to become the next big thing. I love my fans and I won’t do anything to hurt them right now. I’m just interested in keeping them happy. I’d rather be where I am for the rest of my life than take a chance and lose that.”

GOODBYE and THANKS: On a personal note, I want to thank A Guy Thing’s many loyal readers who have offered their support over the past four years. This will be the last instalment of your favourite men’s column as I move on to a new phase in my career. It’s been a pleasure and I’m forever grateful for your kind thoughts.

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