After a mere three years at centre stage, Gary Cherone, 38, is now apparently out of the band, and the remaining VHers, who have been working on a new record with Cherone, are in need of a replacement, according to a report in a showbusiness trade paper.
Beyond a brief story in The Hollywood Reporter claiming Cherone's ouster (described as amicable), there was no official statement from Van Halen's management and no word on whether the new album would be released with Cherone's work intact. Calls to Van Halen's Toronto management company, SRO Management, were not returned. Warner Music Canada, the group's label, said they had no information on the report.
Cherone first gained fame as singer with early 90s hitmakers Extreme, a band also managed by SRO. When Sammy Hagar (who replaced original singer David Lee Roth) exited VH, Cherone came on board in 1996.
Recording of the new album was well underway. After limited work with Don Was and former Madonna collaborator Patrick Leonard, the group settled on seasoned studio hand Danny Kortchmar (best known for his work on Don Henley's "Building The Perfect Beast") to helm the follow-up to their last record, the indifferently-received "VHIII."
And according to the studio diary kept at the group's official website (www.van-halen.com), Cherone seemed buoyed by the prospects for the future.
"Danny's great! We're really getting a lot of work done," Cherone reported at the website.
"He's pushing us all; kicking everyone's ass. We're having lots of fun and we're really pounding out the songs. Personally, I couldn't be happier!"
New tracks already cut for the album included "Left For Dead" (described by Cherone as "four-on-the-floor. One of the most uptempo the band has done"), "River Wide," "Say Uncle" ("about a dominant woman and a willing, submissive man" said Cherone), "You Wear It Well," "Rock n' Roll Cliche," "I Want Her Anyway," "More Than Yesterday," "Love Again," and "Miss You Much."
No word on what went wrong between Cherone and the others. When Cherone joined the group, Van Halen's official website described him as "the final piece in the Van Halen puzzle."
"I just can't say enough about Gary. The guy's a Godsend," Eddie Van Halen said in announcing Cherone's membership in the group.
"He's incredible to work with ? no attitude. It's like we're truly a band now, whereas I thought we were before.
"It's like I've been waiting 20 years for my musical soulmate. We're just connected."
No sooner did word of the vacancy reach the internet than fans began speculating Hagar or Roth would be recruited to take over. But given past statements by the group about the possibility of a reunion, that seems like a longshot.
"We could go out there and make a killing on tour with Roth but we're not a nostalgia band. I would never just take somebody's money for playing old songs to bring back memories ... I'm sure a lot of fans of the band would love to see it, but some things are better left to memory," Eddie Van Halen told Guitar World.