Rock-guitar legend Ronnie Montrose dies at the age of 64



I was shocked to find out, just minutes ago, that one of my top guitar heroes from the ’70s, Ronnie Montrose, died yesterday (March 3). He passed away after a five-year battle with prostate cancer. (As I–and most everybody else–learned later, Montrose actually died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.)

Like most rockheads in the ’70s, I first caught wind of the guitarist when his quartet Montrose–featuring Sammy Hagar on vocals–released its self-titled debut album in 1973. That disc provided a template for Van Halen’s debut of ’78, and I still get a major rush from jolting tracks like “Rock the Nation”, “Space Station #5”, and “Make It Last”.

Hagar left after one more Montrose album, but I continued buying the ones featuring less-impressive lead singer Bob James. After Montrose broke up in ’77, Ronnie formed Gamma with Davey Pattison (Robin Trower’s current singer) on vocals, and I really loved the first couple of albums they released, which were a little more prog-oriented than Montrose.

But what really blew me away about Ronnie Montrose was his instrumental work, especially as heard on such albums as 1978’s Open Fire and 1988’s The Speed of Sound.

R.I.P. Ronnie. You were truly one of the best. Say hi to Gary for me. And remember, it was only a guitar.

(Read my first and last interview with Montrose here.)

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