Guitarist Ronnie Montrose dies aged 64

Guitar great Ronnie Montrose, 1947-2012
Guitar great Ronnie Montrose, 1947-2012

Guitarist Ronnie Montrose, who formed the band that bore his name with Sammy Hagar in 1973, died last night (Saturday, 3 March) after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer. Montrose was 64 years old.

Born on 29 November 1947, Montrose's talents as a guitarist first gained the attention of Van Morrison, who asked him to play on his 1971 album Tupelo Honey. Montrose then briefly joined the Edgar Winter Group before deciding to form his own band with a then-unknown vocalist named Sammy Hagar.

That version of Montrose put out two albums, Montrose and Paper Money, before Hagar left to go solo. Ronnie Montrose would continue to release albums under the band moniker 'Montrose,' but he concentrated on solo recordings, guest appearances and a new band, Gama, which put out four records from 1979 to 2000.

In 2009, Montrose revealed that he had been battling prostate cancer for the past two years. He continued to perform (a series of dates were recently booked, including a May 2012 appearance at BB King's in New York), but last night his website was updated with the following announcement:

"A few months ago, we held a surprise party for Ronnie Montrose's 64th birthday. He gave an impromptu speech, and told us that after a long life, filled with joy and hardship, he didn't take any of our love for granted.

"He passed today. He'd battled cancer, and staved off old age for long enough. And true to form, he chose his own exit the way he chose his own life. We miss him already, but we're glad to have shared with him while we could."

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.