Sammy Hagar on why he doesn't play Fenders: “For me, playing a Strat is like trying to wrestle a professional wrestler”

Sammy Hagar
(Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Best of 2022: It’s safe to say the Gibson vs. Fender debate is one of guitardom’s most hotly contested topics of conversation. For every individual who prefers the double-cut of a Stratocaster, there’s another who favors the Les Paul. The same could be said for the SG and Telecaster.

Former Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar undoubtedly subscribes to the Gibson school of thought, having built a reputation for himself as a staunch Gibson wielder, playing almost exclusively Les Pauls.

However, rather than favoring Gibsons for their looks or tones, Hagar in fact avoids Fenders – Stratocasters, specifically – due to issues of playability, with the self-professed “Gibson Les Paul guy” comparing playing a Fender to wrestling a, uh, wrestler.

When asked if he ever had plans to play a vintage Fender during his residency at The Strat Theatre at The Strat Hotel, Hagar told The San Diego Union-Tribune, “You know, I’m a Gibson Les Paul guy. I can’t play a Fender.”

“For me, playing a Strat is like trying to wrestle a professional wrestler,” he reasoned. “I was raised on Gibson guitars, and my hands feel right when I’m playing one. I have Strats; I just don’t play them.”

It’s a fairly damning indictment from Hagar. We can’t think of many things that would be harder than wrestling a literal professional wrestler.

Elsewhere in the interview, Hagar discussed the possibility of unheard Van Halen material getting a release, though the band’s lead singer remained coy about pursuing the subject due to Van Halen’s iconic legacy.

After admitting that there weren’t many completed Van Halen songs that didn’t see the light of day, Hagar did, however, hint there may be some old EVH jams that could be fleshed out with background vocals or new lyrics.

“But I’m leery about doing that,” he asserted. “ Because the legacy of Van Halen is so great, and – prior to me joining the band – the legacy is pure greatness: Eddie’s guitar work, the band’s playing, the songs. 

“Anything left over wasn’t good enough to be on those records. I don’t care what anyone says; putting out [unreleased music] wouldn’t do anything, other than make someone a little money. But I know Eddie had a ton of [unreleased] jamming stuff he made on cassette tapes, because that’s how we wrote songs. 

“So, maybe,” Hagar teased. “Who knows what they could put together?”

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.