Today is [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Sammy Hagar[/lastfm]’s birthday!!

And to honor the Red Rocker on his big day, Jack FM is making “I Can’t Drive 55” our Song of the Day.

You think [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Eddie Van Halen[/lastfm] sent him a birthday card this year?

If you ever need a lead singer for your rock band, he is the one to call.

After spending a few years in Southern California paying his dues in local bands, Sammy Hagar finally rose to prominence in the early ’70s as the frontman for [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Montrose[/lastfm].  Between 1973 and 1975, the band released two albums with Sammy, Montrose and Paper Money, and scored minor hits with the singles “Rock Candy” and “Bad Motor Scooter.”

Because of growing problems with founder [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Ronnie Montrose[/lastfm], Sammy Hagar left the band in mid-tour to pursue a solo career.  In 1976, he released his debut album, Nine on a Ten Scale.  Over the next five years, Sammy continued releasing albums and eventually achieved his commercial breakthrough in 1981 with Standing Hampton.  That album peaked at #28 on the Billboard 200 and sold a million copies in the U.S.  Five of its singles charted, including “There’s Only One Way to Rock.”

Sammy’s success as a solo artist continued with his next two albums, 1982’s Three Lock Box and 1984’s VOA.  The latter landed at #32 on the charts and was certified platinum.  VOA produced one of Sammy’s best-known hits, “I Can’t Drive 55,” which is Jack’s Song of the Day.  The song, a protest against the lowering of speed limits, went to #26 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was also a Top 10 smash on rock radio.

In 1985, just as Sammy Hagar was hitting his stride, he received a phone call from [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Van Halen[/lastfm] guitarist Eddie Van Halen asking him to be their new lead singer.  Sammy accepted the gig, thus beginning a new chapter in the band’s history.

With Sammy at the helm, Van Halen scored four #1 albums between 1986 and 1995: 5150, OU812, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and Balance.  Also, nine of Van Halen’s singles during this time went to #1 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, including “Why Can’t This Be Love,” “Black and Blue” and “When It’s Love.”

But like all good things, the Hagar-era of Van Halen came to an end when Sammy quit the band in 1996 (they would briefly reunite in 2003).  He resumed his solo career and released the album Marching to Mars one year later.

Over the years, Sammy Hagar has remained quite busy.  In addition to his solo work, he has released albums with both his backup band The Warboritas and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Chickenfoot[/lastfm], a “supergroup” he formed in ’08 with ex-Van Halen bassist [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Michael Anthony[/lastfm].  Sammy even ventured into the business world with his Cabo Wabo brand of tequila and restaurant chain of the same name.

In 2007, Sammy Hagar was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Van Halen, and earlier this year, he released his autobiography Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock.

Check out this clip from 1974 of Montrose performing “Bad Motor Scooter.”  Nice pants, Sammy.

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