Remembering guitar greats lost in 2012: Ronnie Montrose, "Duck" Dunn, Bob Welch, Big Jim Sullivan
As 2012 draws to a close, rock fans might want to take a moment to remember some of the hugely talented guitar players who left us this year. There seemed to be quite a lot of them, sadly enough.
The first bad news came with reports that American guitar hero Ronnie Montrose had passed away on March 3. At first his death was attributed to a lengthy battle with prostate cancer, but then it came to light that the 64-year-old fretmaster had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Montrose fans worldwide handled the loss by cranking up "Rock the Nation" in celebration of the underrated picker's life. I did, anyway. And then I transcribed an interview I did with him in advance of a show at the Commodore Ballroom with the Dixie Dregs back in 1994.
A couple of months later fans of blues, R&B, and soul music got hit with the news that beloved session bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn had passed away at the age of 70.
"Today I lost my best friend, the world has lost the best guy and bass player to ever live," wrote guitar legend Steve Cropper on his Facebook page after Dunn was found dead alone in his Tokyo hotel room on May 13.
I was fortunate enough to have chatted with Dunn on the phone from his home in Memphis back in June of '85, when he was taking a break during a tour with Eric Clapton. He seemed like an awesome chap.
As it did with Ronnie Montrose back in March, the spectre of suicide claimed another '70s rocker on June 7 when former Fleetwood Mac and Paris singer-guitarist Bob Welch took his own life at the age of 66. I pulled out my vinyl copy of Mac's 1973 album, Mystery to Me, and spun the Welch-penned "Hypnotized" in his honour. Damn that's a cool tune.
The most recent guitar great to leave us this year was Big Jim Sullivan, who I must admit I'd never even heard of before he passed away on October 2 of complications from heart disease and diabetes at the age of 71.
A British session player who's noted for having given guitar lessons to a young Ritchie Blackmore, Sullivan won me over with a single YouTube video in which he contemplates "the forbidden zones" of the guitar.
If there's a rock 'n' roll heaven, as the old song goes, I like to think that these guys might be up there jammin', hitting a few notes in their own "forbidden zones"--or going far beyond them. Rest in peace, guitarmen, and thanks for the licks.