‘I was, like, are you insane?’: Mitch Malloy on winning, then losing, Van Halen frontman job

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For a moment in 1996, Mitch Malloy was poised to become Van Halen’s third lead singer. In fact, he was certain he had the job. Then, all of a sudden, Extreme’s Gary Cherone took over instead.

Malloy says the audition was set up by former employee Steve Hoffman, who was then working with then-new Van Halen manager Ray Danniels. Eddie Van Halen, he says, liked him enough to offer Malloy the job. Then things got weird.

“Steve called and said: ‘You’re going to be the next singer in Van Halen,” Malloy says in this Rockeyez clip. “I was like: ‘Are you insane?’ And he said: ‘No, I’m serious. You’re the guy.’ So that went on for a couple of weeks. After a while, I said: ‘Steve, stop calling me and talking about this. If this is real, I want Eddie to call me.’”

Van Halen phoned, and Malloy flew out for an audition. By “the second or third day,” Malloy says, “he told me I was in the band.”

Unfortunately for Malloy, when Danniels couldn’t be retained because Malloy already had a manager, Van Halen instead passed in favor of Cherone — a singer that Danniels already had under contract.

The subsequent Van Halen album (titled III) stiffed, sending the group into a tailspin that it didn’t pull out of until David Lee Roth returned to the fold last year. Roth, originally with Van Halen from 1974–85, had been replaced by Sammy Hagar from 1985-96.

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