David Lee Roth Recalls The Time Van Halen Was So Broke They Would Share One Cigarette
Van Halen’s former vocalist, David Lee Roth, recently posted a series of new sketches on his Twitter account and recalled the early stages of the band’s career while revealing how much money they earned and how they spent it.
David Lee Roth is one of the most well-known frontmen in the rock scene and he started climbing the ladder of fame as a member of Van Halen. However, his tenure with the band was not a continuous one as he was a member from 1974 to 1985, then reunited with them in 1996, and became the band’s last frontman from 2006 to their disbandment in 2020.
Even though he often makes it to the headlines of rock news with his latest projects in the music industry, since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 Roth has been working on his visual artwork. With his artworks, he enjoys sharing the experiences he gained in the rock world and tell unknown stories regarding his history with Van Halen.
As you may know, Roth was in an R&B tinged rock group called the Red Ball Jets when he met the Van Halen brothers who were performing under the name Mammoth. After a couple of failed auditions, Roth was finally hired by the brothers and in 1974 Mammoth changed its name to Van Halen. However, Van Halen hasn’t been as successful as it is now since day one and that was one of the things Diamond Dave talked about in his last sketches.
Van Halen would perform five sets of 45 minutes each every night, which would equal to 70 songs per night. They would do any gig they got regardless of whether it was in a club, rodeo, or frat house. If the road bar was too far away, then they would sleep in their cars. In order to express how broke they were, Roth said that any money they earned, they would spend it for gas or food. Even having a cigarette, meant literally four people having one smoke.
Here’s what was written in the first sketch:
“This is the shop he worked at 3 days a week after practice. Same week he was ‘most valuable player, king of the double steal.’ Jackie Robinson, the first Black player in the majors wasn’t paid enough to live on. They got him the job though. Mack told me. The only difference between winning and losing is how other folks treat you…”
This is what he said about Van Halen’s first gigs:
“5 ’45 minute’ sets a night, 70 songs.
Every night; club, rodeo, frat house, and road bar within driving distance. If not we slept in our cars.”
Here’s what they did with the money they earned:
“Every penny went into the gas tank or our stomachs…
– Dude, he’s hotboxing it.
– Awww, c’mon Al…
‘Let’s go have a cigarette’ was exactly that – 4 guys 1 smoke.”
You can check out David Lee Roth’s post below.
— David Lee Roth (@DavidLeeRoth) April 28, 2021