Michael Anthony may be known for his extensive collection of bass guitars – he has one shaped like a Jack Daniels bottle, after all! – but the former Van Halen bass player also has an impressive stable of custom and classic cars. While Anthony’s passion for music started early on, it took him a long time to catch the car bug.
“I was never even into cars until I met Sammy Hagar, who was a big car fanatic,” Anthony said. “When you’re on the road touring, there isn’t a lot of time to go to car shows, but if there was a show happening near where we were playing, we would try to go. I learned to appreciate all kinds of cars. I’m not locked into anything in particular. I have about nine cars right now – everything from the beautiful ’33 roadster that Boyd Coddington built for me, to a ’57 Nomad I keep at the beach. I’m all over the place!”
Anthony, who currently plays bass in the rock supergroup Chickenfoot, as well as The Circle with Hagar, recently brought his love of music and cars together when he, along with ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and guitarist Jimmie Vaughan, jammed together at the 2017 SEMA Show.
“We had played together once at a car function at the Petersen [Museum],” Anthony said. “They wanted us to do something like that for SEMA. Cars and rock ‘n’ roll – they just go together so well.”
We spoke to Anthony about his time with Van Halen, his favorite cars to drive and whether or not he can really play that Jack Daniels bottle-shaped bass guitar.
GG: Is the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle really as awesome as it looks?
Michael Anthony: Everyone thinks they want to live that life. But, believe me, it’s not as glamorous as everyone thinks it is. When you’re on stage, yes, it totally is as glamorous as it looks, but off stage there is actually a lot of hard work to it. I always get asked about the groupies, too, but I was never into that myself.
GG: If you hadn’t gone into the music industry, what career do you think you’d have right now?
Michael Anthony: The only other thing I was interested in at all was psychology. I wanted to work with disabled children. I was going to City College and planning to major in psychology, but then my dad let me switch my major to music. I never completed college, though. I ended up joining a band called Van Halen instead.
GG: You have a collection of cool cars. Which one is your daily driver?
Michael Anthony: I drive an extended Jeep Rubicon. I have three dogs so I’m always taking them somewhere. I drive my Jeep because it does everything I need it to do but I don’t have to worry about it when I’m out. Having a nice hot rod or exotic is great, but sometimes it’s scary to drive them because you don’t want something to happen to it. My cars are my kids, and when I have to sell a car, I almost cry when it goes out of my driveway!
GG: You own one of the last cars Boyd Coddington ever built – a ’40 Ford convertible, as well as a Boyd-built ’33 roadster. How did those cars come about?
Michael Anthony: A lot of people say Boyd built cars that only looked good, but his cars still hold up, even today. The design was really cutting edge. The first time I walked into Boyd’s shop, I was a kid in a candy store! My first car was a ’33 roadster Boyd built for me in 1994. Boyd, Brad Fanshaw and Chip Foose were all working on it, tugging it in different ways. There was a lot of custom stuff incorporated into it and I won a few awards with it. The ’33 is still one of my favorite cars because I always wanted a black roadster with flames. That just felt so rock ‘n’ roll to me. I drove my ’40 convertible from California to Illinois on the Americruise. That’s a real testament to the quality of Boyd’s cars.
GG: What’s your favorite driving song?
Michael Anthony: I don’t want to sound conceited for saying a Van Halen song but it’s probably “Dreams”. It’s just a great song to listen to when you’re driving fast.
GG: You’ve interacted with a lot of incredible people over the course of your career. Who were you most excited to meet?
Michael Anthony: When we were touring on the Monsters of Rock Tour in the 1980s, I got to meet John Entwistle, the bass player of The Who. I was shaking when I met him, and told him something lame like I was his biggest fan or something. He was the bass player I listened to growing up. He came by the show and actually played my Jack Daniels bass and thought it was really cool!
GG: Let’s talk about that Jack Daniels bass. What’s the story behind that?
Michael Anthony: Back in the day, I drank so much Jack Daniels that people said I should build a bass that looks like a whiskey bottle. We made it out of scrap parts so it was really hard to play. The original one is on display at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame but I’ve had two other ones built since then. The Yamaha guitar company built the later one so it played decently.
GG: Do you think we’ll ever see you, Jimmie and Billy jam together again at a future SEMA Show?
Michael Anthony: I think it will happen again. It was the vision of Pete Chapouris. He wanted us to put it together for SEMA 2016 but we couldn’t get everyone’s schedules to line up. It’s kind of sad because Pete passed away [in January 2017] and never got to see it happen. I love jamming with those guys. I like playing songs that are not Van Halen songs.
GG: What’s the least rock ‘n’ roll thing about you?
Michael Anthony: I’m actually a pretty boring guy! I think people would be surprised to learn that I’m a huge Disney fan. I collect Disney watches. When I’m not on tour, I like to blend in and that’s why I love my cars so much. I get to hang out and just be one of the guys.