- - Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sammy Hagar knows a thing about guitar players. He started his career in the band Montrose alongside legendary ax-slinger Ronnie Montrose. After a successful solo career, he joined up with the icon of guitar, Eddie Van Halen, in Van Halen to create some of the band’s most popular and successful hits. And for the supergroup Chickenfoot he enlisted a true wizard of the instrument, Joe Santriani.

It’s no surprise then that in 1997 “the Red Rocker” tapped Colorado native Vic Johnson for his band The Waboritas. But before joining up with Mr. Hagar, Mr. Johnson was a member of funk/rock unit The Bus Boys, whom you may remember them from their ‘80s hit “The Boys Are Back in Town” and their appearance in the Eddie Murphy film “48 Hours.”

Mr. Hagar tapped Mr. Johnson to join him in his latest supergroup, The Circle, which also comprises drummer Jason Bonham and ex-Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony. The results both live and on record are astounding.

Mr. Johnson discussed The Bus Boys, how that band ended up in “48 Hours” and how much he has to drink to keep up with Sammy Hagar.

Question: How did you end up in The Bus Boys?

Answer: I moved to L.A. from Colorado in 1978. I didn’t know anyone except for my grandmother. I promoted myself, went to a studio and took pictures and  plastered my pictures all over Hollywood.

I thought that was what you do: Put your pictures up everywhere with your number on them and wait for a call. I did get a couple calls, but they weren’t exactly what I wanted. (Laughs)

They had these free concerts on the parks in South Central L.A. within walking distance of my grandma’s house. I went to one in my Levis, jean jacket and cowboy boots. It was Parliament Funkadelic. I meet this guy there. We start talking, just musician stuff.

“I play bass.”

“Well, I play guitar.”

We exchange numbers.

Right after that there was a shooting. They canceled the concert. But I got that guy’s number, and I ran home back to my grandma’s house.

Some months later the guy called me and said, “I know this band looking for a guitar player called The Bus Boys. You want the number?”

I call them up and went down there. To me the music was easy. They said, “OK, we got some other guys we want to listen to, but we’ll call you back.” I think I got that nailed [but] nothing. I’m getting discouraged.

They called me back a week later. Went back again. They were rehearsing in a body shop. A garage basically.

“We’ll call you back.”

The third time I got there early and started vibing with the drummer. I loved the drummer, Steve Felix, who was rocking hard. We were playing all these classic rock things.

The drummer said to the band, “This guy can play.”

I got in.

Q: How did the band end up in the “48 Hours”?

A: Everybody thinks it was because of Eddie Murphy, but it was not. The film’s director, Walter Hill, got us in the movie. He knew of us and had seen us around town. He thought we would be perfect for the movie.

We did the movie and then Eddie got us on “Saturday Night Live.”

Q: How much tequila do you have to drink to keep up with Sammy Hagar?

A: I don’t really have to drink tequila anymore because he’s all about rum now!

Q: How much rum do you have to drink, then?

A: Not that much. The tequila is one thing, but the rum is like “Yikes!” You gotta be a real man to drink that stuff because, man, that’s strong.

My buddy is actually the creator of that rum that he is making. He’s a guy I went to grade school with in Colorado a loooooong time ago.

Q: Did you connect your friend and Sammy together?

A: No, Sammy met him in Maui. After that Sammy said, “Hey, Vic, I met this guy who says he knows you from Colorado.” He was making vodka, and he gave me some vodka 10 years before the thing ever happened. I gave some to Sammy.

I asked him three months later, “Hey, man, what did you think of that vodka?” He said, “Oh, dude, that was some really good stuff.” Ten years later my friend meets Sammy in Maui at a gas station and says, “Hey, man you like my vodka?”

Next thing you know, boom!

Q: Is playing with Sammy Hagar the best gig you have ever had?

A: It’s great, man. The Circle with Mikey and Jason is a riot. Mikey is a riot all in his own, but Jason takes the cake. He’s very entertaining. Mikey and Sammy are quite entertaining, but Jason is a whole other level. That guy is wild.

We had dinner one night, and he had just had his dental work done. He has no original upper teeth. He grabbed a piece of sourdough bread and it pulled all of his teeth. He’s got the screwed in deal. His whole rack came out — stuck in the bread! We were on tour and thought, “Is this really happening?”

What does he do? He takes pictures and puts it on his Instagram! We have pictures of him on the ground with Mickey kicking him and his teeth everywhere. They made up a story that he said some crap about Mickey so they got in a fight.

During the show he is showing everybody his teeth are gone on the big screen.

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