Sammy Hagar would have been “embarrassed” if Van Halen had adopted proposed Van Hagar name change

Rock musicians Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen (1955 - 2020), both of the group Van Halen, performs onstage at the Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, Illinois, March 15, 1986.
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Admit it – we’ve all referred to the Sammy Hagar-fronted version of Van Halen as Van Hagar at least once or twice. But the question remains: did the members of Van Halen ever consider actually changing their moniker after the singer replaced David Lee Roth in the mid ‘80s?

According to Hagar, the possibility was brought up prior to the release of his first album with the band, 1986’s 5150, but never gained traction, thanks to electric guitar great Eddie Van Halen.

“We were in the studio and we played Why Can't This Be Love,” he told Marci Wiser of 95.5 KLOS radio in a new interview. And [Warner Bros. label head] Mo Austin went, 'Oh, I smell money.' He thought it was just the greatest. So then he said, 'Did you guys ever think about maybe changing the name to, like, Van Hagar or something?'

“And I know what they were thinking, because they thought, 'If this doesn't work, at least you can go back with Van Halen again. But if you're Van Halen and it don't work, now you've ruined the name Van Halen.' So they were trying to preserve, I think, the Van Halen name. And Eddie Van Halen – Eddie Van Halen, no one else – said, 'Fuck that.' He said, 'This is Van Halen with a new singer.' And everybody said, 'Okay. Word. Gospel.' Boom."

As for how Sammy felt about Ed’s decision? 

"I was 100 percent on board with it. It was Van Halen with a new singer. I would have been embarrassed to be Van Hagar. I mean, I would have said, 'Let's just change it back to Mammoth [Van Halen’s original moniker] or something. Go back to the beginning."

Recently, Hagar told New York’s Q104.3 radio that there will eventually be a tribute concert to honor Eddie Van Halen, who passed away in October at the age of 65 after battling cancer.

“It's gotta happen,” Hagar said. “Of course it’s gonna happen.”

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.