Sammy Hagar, Bob Weir, and Ronnie Dunn Break the Weirdness Meter With Surprise Jam in Nashville

Sammy Hagar, Bob Weir, and Ronnie Dunn walk into a theater… While it sounds like the setup to a music nerd’s joke or the opening of the Seventh Seal, this actually happened onstage in Nashville on Tuesday night when the Grateful Dead guitarist and the singing half of Brooks & Dunn made a joint cameo at Hagar’s Ryman Auditorium concert.


Midway through Hagar’s show with the Circle — the classic-rock torchbearers of Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, Led Zeppelin drummer scion Jason Bonham, and EVH-inspired guitarist Vic Johnson — the 74-year-old Hagar introduced his 74-year-old Bay Area neighbor. Weir, who always seems as if he’s trying to find his way back to the Shire, ambled out in his rancher’s hat and capris, a stark contrast to Hagar in a “Red Rocker” jersey, numbered “55,” as in “I Can’t Drive.”

A brief discussion followed about what to play. “Good Lovin’” was apparently in contention, but they ultimately settled on Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away.” And so commenced a herky-jerky jam that succeeded, if not for its musicality, then for its surrealist quality. The weirdness quotient increased when Ronnie Dunn inexplicably emerged from the wings to sing a verse. Reading the lyrics off his phone, he gamely tried to fit in vocal runs around Weir’s guitar rhythm before exiting stage right.


While Dunn’s cameo was as flitting as a ghost, Weir hung around for one more: a bombastic take on Led Zeppelin’s “Rock & Roll” kicked off by Bonham banging out his dad’s signature drum intro. Hagar, in shades and a grin the entire night, ate it up. As the remaining Van Halen vocalist still touring since David Lee Roth announced and then canceled a string of retirement gigs, he revels in giving the faithful what they want — he even played “Humans Being,” for God’s sake, the song on the Twister movie soundtrack that all but broke up Van Hagar.

Bobby Weir returns to the Ryman tonight with his band the Wolf Bros. Perhaps Hagar, who plays SXSW next week, will repay the favor.