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Local music
Reading native touring with Sammy Hagar

Weekend Edition, August 9-11, 2002

By Jim Speese
Reading Eagle Correspondent

When Sammy Hagar and his band play Wednesday at the Hersheypark Star Pavilion, it will be a homecoming of sorts for drummer David Lauser.

Lauser spent the formative years of his life in Reading before moving to California.

At the tender age of 14, Lauser began his musical career when, as a reward for an A+ in algebra, his parents bought him his first drum set. It was more than a career, though, as Lauser discovered how much he loved music. That love drove him to constantly hone his craft.

One of his first bands, the Mobile Home Blues Band, eventually hired a young singer named Sammy Hagar. While the band didn't last long, the musical partnership and friendship between drummer and singer would last a lifetime.

The two parted briefly and Hagar began his quick road to superstardom. Lauser continued his career with a band called TOYS.

The two reunited, though, for Hagar's highly successful Geffen albums. A gold record soon followed, and Lauser's signature drum roll on "I Can't Drive 55" became an icon of the MTV musical world.

Of course, Hagar soon joined Van Halen, replacing David Lee Roth, enabling Lauser to experiment with different styles and musicians.

The two remained close, and the drummer played on Hagar's various contributions to movie soundtracks. It's interesting to note that Hagar's greatest hits release (Geffen's "Unboxed") features a long and storied musical career, but one rock solid drummer on every track David

Now, the duo, with their band (affectionately called the Waboritas), is once again touring the country this time as a co-headliner with David Lee Roth. The tour has been referred to as the "Sans Halen" tour, a reference to the band that both lead singers eventually acrimoniously parted ways with.

According to Lauser in a recent phone interview, the tour is going very well.

"It's going great," Lauser enthused. "It's generating a lot of interest, even from people who aren't that familiar with Sammy's work. And we're all kicking it up a notch."

The tour is a true co-headlining deal Hagar and Roth reportedly flipped a coin to see which act would open the first show, and have been flip-flopping ever since. There is no other opening act, according to Lauser, and sometimes fans, unaware of this fact, are still "strolling in" when
one of the bands starts playing.

"The only negative is that only the opener gets a sound check," Lauser explained, "so sometimes I walk on stage right from the airplane and start and hope it's all working right."

As such he's worked an elaborate system of signals with the monitor technician.

As for the show itself, it's getting generally good reviews, and Lauser's not surprised.

"Sammy is being really entertaining," he said, laughing. "He's like the Dean Martin of rock, mixing drinks onstage," as part of the band's Cabo Waba Nightclub Stage.

But, Hagar is also not above changing things on the spur of the moment.

"Sam is really running things by the seat of his pants," said Lauser. "He changes songs at the last minute. Things never get boring. But he's the ultimate entertainer. He's like the West Coast Bruce Springsteen. He's not fake he really is that fun-loving guy. It's just an extension of who
he is."

Lauser can claim some great moments in his career playing with Hagar, Eddie Van Halen and a host of others but the highlight is when, after firing his band on stage, Chuck Berry asked Lauser to play a New Year's Eve show.

"Oh, man, it was intimidating," Lauser said.

But, after opening with "Roll Over Beethoven," Lauser began to feel comfortable. After the last song, Berry gave the drummer a bit of a tribute.

"He slapped me five," Lauser said. "That was the highlight of my career."

Returning to this area brings back many memories for Lauser. A few years ago, during a family reunion, he drove to Reading to check out his old house on South 12th Street.

"I remembered the whole rock 'n' roll vibe," he said of that trip. "I took my girlfriend to the Pagoda. So many memories came back to me. Cho-cho's, hard pretzels, Lebanon Bologna.
The first beer I ever drank was Reading when my dad gave me a sip."

His fondest memory, though, is an evocative one in this hot summer: "I remember my brother and I chasing after the "spritzin' trucks"the fire trucks that used to open the hydrants on hot summer days."

And this man who has gone from Reading to a remarkably successful career has three bits of advice for local musicians.

"First, protect your ears," he said. "I really have a lot of hearing loss from all those years of playing.

"Second, for my brothers out there on the drums, buy a metronome. Get a feel for your own style first, then get a metronome and play along.

"And finally, keep an open mind and an open ear for the other musicians in the band."

Columnist Jim Speese is a member of the local band Cloud Party. E-mail him at Entertainment@readingeagle.com