The real story behind Sammy Hagar’s unpublished autobiography, The Long Road to Cabo | Music Stories | St. Louis | St. Louis News and Events
Sammy Hagar’s recently published autobiography Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock was a long time coming. As co-author Joel Selvin noted in a recent interview with the RFT, it was finally a victory for Hagar, who had previously made two attempts to put his life story on paper.
In a 2000 interview, Hagar spoke about The Long Road to Cabo, an autobiography he wrote with Dick Richmond, a Belleville-based Dick Richmond, a writer / writer and long-time friend of Hagar’s. Richmond had an impressive 43-year career in post-dispatch earlier that year. He began his tenure with the newspaper in 1957 after he left the Air Force and has held various positions over the years, many of which had to do with entertainment and popular music.
Unfortunately, the long road to Cabo never came about – although the name itself ended up being the title of a 2003 DVD retrospective – and, like so many other things in Van Halen’s history, the book has become an unsolved mystery to fans . What happened to the long road to Cabo? We did a bit of detective work and got the answers straight from Dick Richmond himself. He was kind enough to answer some questions and emailed a letter with insights into the book and Hagar’s love affair with St. Louis. In his own words, this is what happened. – Matt Wardlaw
Sam and I have known each other since 1977 and were friends almost from the start. We joined in part because we both came from humble backgrounds and our two fathers were steel workers. In a way, we actually started working on The Long Road to Cabo. Sam was with Capitol Records in 1977 and was years away from being a star attraction. To do the interviews necessary for the project, he came to town for two weeks with his first wife, Betsy, and their son, Aaron. I put her at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel and we did daily interviews.
His close association with St. Louis was about to begin. This was in the early days of KSHE radio (94.7 FM), and the genius running it at the time was the late Shelley Grafman. Shelley and I had bonded because I had written about the station, and when my treasure hunt books were published he was kind enough that on-air personality Ron Stevens interviewed me to promote the books at every opportunity.
Because of that connection, I asked Shelley if he would consider giving Sammy a boost. Not only did Shelley play part of Sam’s music all the time, he also made several guest disc jockey appearances during those two weeks.
That’s not to say that this created the love affair between Sam and St. Louis. There were a number of people who helped in this regard, notably Wayne Meisenholder and David Burd who were local representatives for Capitol Records at the time, as well as Steve Schankman and Irv Zuckerman of Contemporary Productions. In reality, it was Sam’s victorious personality and hard work that made that connection with the city. Nevertheless, the people just mentioned saw the star quality in Sam and his willingness to do what was necessary to strengthen his then emerging career.
After Sam and his family left St. Louis in 1977, I went to California to interview his mother and sister, Bobbi.
The project failed in the 1970s when Ed Leffler, Sam’s manager at the time, put his thumbs on it. From the late Ed Leffler, Sam learned a great deal of the excellent business acumen he has today.
Of all of the taped interviews of famous people I’ve had over the years, I’ve only conducted the ones I did with Sam in 1977. I can’t even tell you why I kept this in a safe place, but I did.
In the years that followed, Sam and I got together when he came to St. Louis. He would go into more detail about his career and tell him about my recent adventures and the projects I was involved in at the time. We formed a relationship of trust.
When Sam and I decided to write The Long Road to Cabo it was my suggestion, but he enthusiastically participated. He flew me to Cabo and took me to one of the palaces on the Sea of Cortez, not far from his house. In Cabo I interviewed his current wife Kari and his brother and of course many other interviews with Sam. From there he flew me to California, where I interviewed his mother and two sisters again. Sam’s mother was a wonderful resource that some found Sam embarrassed.
I later traveled with him a little and then stayed in his Marin County [California] At home for a few days. During that time we covered a lot of intimate material that really enriched The Long Road to Cabo. From there I drove to Carmel-by-the-Sea to interview his first wife, Betsy, and his two sons.
When I started writing, the interviews continued over the phone. When I finished a chapter I would fax what I had written Sam for approval and we would proceed from there. It was a fourteen month process and the result was an in-depth look at his life from childhood to the present, for which he wrote me a thank you letter for a job well done. The long walk to Cabo was everything from Sam’s point of view – a 500-page autobiography with lots of details about his early life and the breaks that followed.
We actually had a publisher for the book in a sweetheart deal when I got a call from Sam who said, “Dick, I’m sorry, but I just signed up to go on a tour with the Van Halen brothers , and the deal had a no-book clause. “
I was disappointed but understood and put the manuscript away.
Meanwhile, Sam had become both a well-known businessman and rock star, and said he was no longer interested in people knowing that much about him. I understood that too.
I interviewed him again for my last book, Produced By Contemporary, which was published in 2008. Inside is a photo of Sam and me together.
Sam always sends me a limo when he’s in town. That’s how we saw each other last year when he performed at the amphitheater in St. Louis. Kari was with him then.
Editor’s Note: Hagar nods to his old friend Richmond in Thanks for Red, thanks him “for helping write this book.”