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Guitarist Satriani joins Hagar for Chickenfoot fun

May 10, 2009|By Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior Pop Music Correspondent
  • The members of Chickenfoot (left to right) - Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, Chad Smith and Sammy Hagar - in a San Rafael rehearsal studio.
    The members of Chickenfoot (left to right) - Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, Chad Smith and Sammy Hagar - in a San Rafael rehearsal studio.
    Credit: Michael Macor / The Chronicle

Sammy Hagar, who was touring on the other side of the country with Van Halen in 1991, wanted to fly home and play the Golden Gate Park memorial concert for Bill Graham. He lined up former Montrose drummer Denny Carmassi, and called guitarist Joe Satriani to ask if Satriani would join him to play Montrose's "Rock Candy."

"You know what he said?" Hagar asks. "He said, 'I don't do other people's material.' I thought 'What an upbeat f-.' "

"I don't remember that," an astonished Satriani says. "Why would I say something like that?"

But Satriani finally did join Hagar for a brief jam session in February last year in Las Vegas with Hagar's Chickenfoot, a three-man weeknight poker circle that used to get together and jam at Hagar's Mexican beach cantina, Cabo Wabo, featuring Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, long a Hagar partner-in-crime.

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Now Satriani, rock's leading instrumentalist and hero of a thousand guitar magazine covers, has joined forces with rock's most irrepressible front man and his monumental rhythm section.

People make a bad habit of underestimating Hagar, 61, the Energizer bunny of hard rock, who is about to begin his fourth platinum career. The Chickenfoot album, produced by Led Zeppelin engineer Andy Johns, will be released June 9, and the band starts an instantly sold-out, nine-city Road Test tour next Sunday at the Fillmore, before heading off to tour Europe in June and July, and returning to do a proper tour of the states in August.

"You're not a band unless you gig, I say," drummer Smith says.

The band members are sitting around a giant Chinese lacquered table that Hagar found while bargain hunting with his wife in Chinatown. They are passing around Satriani's laptop and goofing with the video. Anthony and Smith are staying at the nearby Terra Linda Motel. Satriani drove up from San Francisco and Hagar came down from his Mill Valley mountaintop. They have gathered to rehearse for the shows.

"I've got ideas pouring out of me today," Hagar announces as he walks into his Red Rocker Recording Studio in this quiet nook of warehouses and industrial buildings outside San Rafael.

"After Van Halen, I said I would never work with a genius guitar player again," Hagar says. "But after jamming with these guys for a while, we decided, 'Let's get a good guitar player.' I got his number and started calling Joe. This time it worked."

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