Dispatch, Los Cabos: The Sammy Hagar effect

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Dispatch, Los Cabos: The Sammy Hagar effect
© TW photo by Eric Moya

Destinations editor Eric Moya is a guest of the Paradisus Los Cabos this week as he attends the Los Cabos VIP Summit.

Sammy Hagar is hard rock's answer to Jimmy Buffett, parlaying his rock star status into a hugely successful second career as founder of the Cabo Wabo tequila brand.

At age 70, these days Hagar's persona is part rock elder statesman, part beach bum. But unlike Buffett, whose flip-flop folkie aesthetic was in place almost from the start, that characteristic emerged fairly late in Hagar's career.

During his stint as Van Halen's lead singer, Hagar laid the foundation for his agave-based empire with the song "Cabo Wabo" off the 1988 album OU812. (Like that album title, the song's title is a bit of wordplay: Hagar named it after watching an inebriated reveler struggling to walk straight -- in other words, doing the "Cabo wobble.")

Many pop songs about Mexico, including Buffett's signature tune "Margaritaville," offer vague references to geography -- a beach, the border, a cantina and so on -- but "Cabo Wabo" is specifically about Cabo San Lucas:

Land's end, you'd have to see it
Ain't no picture ever say it right

There's also not a hint of the trouble-in-paradise lyrical approach that songs like "Margaritaville" take. Instead Hagar sings that "if you go there once, you'll be there twice," urging the listener to "let me take you down, I will show you around." If Hagar wants yet a third career, in tourism promotion, I think he's got the goods.

As a kid who was struggling to play an F chord on the guitar in 1988, Van Halen was a huge part of my middle school and high school years. So for my first trip to Los Cabos, there was never any question that I'd be stopping at the Cabo Wabo Cantina, Hagar's nightclub/restaurant in Cabo San Lucas and his first entrepreneurial endeavor to bear the Cabo Wabo name, having opened in 1990.

© TW photo by Eric Moya

The Cabo Wabo Cantina is somewhat dwarfed by the high-end shopping malls and myriad multistory bars that sprung up in Cabo San Lucas in its wake, and because I was strapped for time, I went during midday, so I wasn't able to see it at peak hours. There were a couple of patrons at the bar and several couples seated at tables -- several families, too, who kept the merchandise booth busy ringing up caps, T-shirts and more.

I've written before about the allure of the laid-back lifestyle espoused by singers such as Buffett and Kenny Chesney.

Sammy Hagar took it a step further, penning an ode to a real town and offering not a hint of bittersweetness with his Baja bacchanalia.

Tourism-wise, Cabo San Lucas doesn't rival Cancun in terms of scale, but it's certainly not the "sleepy town south of the border" Hagar sang about three decades ago. And photos from those years suggest that perhaps it wasn't all that sleepy even back then.

If the construction cranes along Highway 1 today are any indication, tourism development isn't going to slow down anytime soon, and Los Cabos' tourism industry stands at the ready to welcome an increasing number of visitors -- and welcome them back year after year. Go there once, you'll be there twice.

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