Rock-guitar legend Ronnie Montrose dies of prostate cancer 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.

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. Here's a moody track off the latter album that kinda captures the way Montrose fans are feeling right now.

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.)

You can follow Steve Newton on Twitter at twitter.com/earofnewt.

Comments (6) Add New Comment
John M. Pace
Sorry to here about Ronnie Montrose, Great Guitarest, Just another reason to have your prostate checked. R.I.P.
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Taso
Steve,

Thank you so much for paying tribute to one of the most underated musicians in rock history. His guitar solo in Gamma's 'Voyager' still gives me the goosebumps everytime I listen to the song.

I got the opportunity to see the classic Montrose line up reunion show in August 2003 in Concord, California. After Sammy Hagar's set, the four members got up on stage and jammed out five tunes from the brilliant first album. Suffice to say, the chemistry and magic was stiil there.

Although we have butted heads from time to time over the merits of Hagar, Chickenfoot, and Van Halen, I still appreciate the fact that you take the time to honor fallen guitar greats such as Montrose and Gary Moore.
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Pat Crowe
There goes another one.
This gettin old is for the birds.
After being knocked out by Deep Purple last week it only reaffirms the fact that they don't make em like they used to.
Nickleback anyone? Didn't think so.
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Randy G
Ronnie Montrose was 100% Take No Prisoners Rock N Roll....RIP Ronnie...One of the Hard Rock Greats...Now and Forever
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Mike Klassen (comment)
For us Eastside boys from the 70s there are few records that blew up a good set of loudspeakers than the Montrose debut record produced by Ted Templeman, the same guy who later produced the Van Halen debut. Ronnie Montrose recorded a solo record called Open Fire (1978) that had a very catchy track using synthesizers. I always wished I had purchased the record when it came out after hearing that track.

Then one day I was flipping through a bin of LPs for 50 cents each down on Fraser Street, when lo and behold I found a pretty good copy of Open Fire, which still remains in my vinyl collection. I'll have to dig it out and give it a spin in memory of Montrose. Thanks for the story, Steve.
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Rocker Chic
We used to play that record so loud the walls would shake, the speakers would blow, and the neighbours would call the cops. That did not stop us!

I made my daughter crank it up for me last night when I heard the news.

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