Sammy Hagar got an early sign of how contentious his 2004 reunion with Van Halen would be when he was banned from wearing Cabo Wabo clothing onstage.

Hagar and his Van Halen bandmates launched the Cabo Wabo cantina in 1990 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico after the singer fell in love with the town. Years later, with the club in financial and legal distress, Hagar bought out his bandmates' interests. He was not only able to turn around the venue's fortunes but also launched a highly successful tequila brand under the same name. He departed Van Halen in 1996 after a series of escalating creative and career path disagreements.

"At the time they didn't care [about Cabo Wabo]," Hagar explained in his book Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock. "But by the reunion, the tequila was everywhere and people were always coming up and talking about the cantina. It drove them nuts."

According to Hagar, the Van Halen brothers went to great lengths to keep Hagar's brand name off their stage. "They put it in the contract that I could not wear any Cabo Wabo T-shirts onstage or mention anything about the tequila or the cantina on the mike."

However, the Red Rocker immediately came up with a backup plan. "I went straight to a tattoo parlor and I got this giant Cabo Wabo tattoo on my shoulder. I knew we would be carrying giant video screens and that, as the lead vocalist, I was going to get plenty of close-ups on those giant video screens. I didn't need a t-shirt."

He hid his new and still-healing tattoo from his bandmates by wearing long-sleeve shirts during rehearsals. Bassist Michael Anthony knew the secret and seized on the chance to mess with his friend, jokingly slapping him on the shoulder every chance he got. "It hurt like a mother with all that black in the tattoo," Hagar recalled.

When the tour kicked off on June 11, 2004 in Greensboro, N.C. the tattoo turned out to be the least of Hagar's problems. Eddie Van Halen was in the midst of a severe substance abuse battle, frequently rendering the normally dazzling guitarist incapable of performing up to his usual standards during the concerts - and prone to violent and emotional outbursts offstage. “I was just hoping it was going to be great and everybody was going to be happy and a big love fest and just go at it again," Hagar told NBC in 2011, "but it wasn’t that at all. It was the complete opposite."

Hagar attempted to quit the tour just a few shows in, but was forced to ride it out when his lawyer pointed out that according to the terms of the contract he could be liable for upwards of $5 million in lost income penalties.

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Just before the last show - Nov. 19 in Tuscon - Hagar says Eddie made a futile attempt to cover up Hagar's Cabo Wabo tattoo. "He came up to me before the show and rolled my sleeve down over my tattoo. I didn't even acknowledge him. I just rolled it back up. He rolled it back down. I rolled it back up. 'Don't be fucking with my shirt, dude,' I said."

The band barely made it through the concert. "It was the worst show we'd ever done in our lives. ...I went straight to my plane after the show and home to San Francisco," Hagar recalled in his 2011 book. "I never spoke to him again after telling him to keep his hand off my shirt."

Hagar and Van Halen eventually reconciled, shortly before the guitarist's 2020 death. In 2007, Hagar sold an 80% interest in his Cabo Wabo tequila brand for a whopping $80 million. Three years later, he sold his remaining stake for another $11 million. The singer still owns the Cabo Wabo cantina and performs there for his annual birthday celebration concerts.

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Gallery Credit: Matthew Wilkening, except as noted below.

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