Since 1974, Van Halen have had three different lead singers, two of whom have served more than one stint in the band. Both David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar spent more than a decade each in the group, but who sang at the most shows during their time?
The answer is Roth. But before his most recent return, the race might have been closer than you think. As Van Halen’s original singer, Roth racked up some big numbers during the band’s early years, which — for big chunks of 1974, 1975 and 1976 — found them playing multiple nights each week at a Los Angeles club called Gazzari’s. Coupled with extensive touring in support of the band’s first six albums, Roth rang up approximately 840 shows before departing Van Halen for the first time in 1985.
By comparison, his replacement, Sammy Hagar, released only four albums during his initial 11-year time with the band. However, the tours in support of those records were massive, and a brief (but disastrous and friendship-ending) 2004 reunion tour brought him to a seemingly final total of a little less than 580 Van Halen shows.
In between Hagar’s two terms, Extreme frontman Gary Cherone was brought on board for one album –1998’s much-maligned Van Halen III — and sang with the group for less than 80 shows.
Three years after the 2004 tour with Hagar went to hell in a hand basket, Van Halen finally brought Roth back into the fold. He’s been in his old front-man role for more than a decade now, but the band hasn’t been very active, releasing just one studio album (2012’s underrated if overlong A Different Kind of Truth) and adding only 182 more shows to Roth’s overall total, which currently stands at a little more than 1,000.
Roth’s return coincided with the band’s only other lineup change, as longtime bassist Michael Anthony was replaced (after 1,499 shows, by our estimate) by Wolfgang Van Halen, the son of the band’s resident guitar genius Eddie Van Halen (technically, he’s also the nephew of Eddie’s brother, drummer Alex Van Halen). To date, the younger Van Halen has performed at approximately 182 shows.
It’s been more than three years since Van Halen played their most recent concert together in October 2015, and there’s been no official word on any future recording or touring plans. So Wolfgang’s chances of catching Anthony seem to be in the “snowball in hell” range.