Ronnie Montrose dead at 64

Legendary American rock guitarist Ronnie Montrose has died at the age of 64. Montrose passed away Saturday March 3rd after a five year battle with prostate cancer.

Montrose’s official web site has been updated with the following message:

“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.”

In a September 2011 interview with North County Times, Montrose revealed that he didn’t pick up his guitar for two years following his cancer diagnosis. “I had prostate cancer that, for me, was debilitating,” he said. “I didn’t touch a guitar for two years, but when I realized I was seeing the light at the end of the recovery tunnel and was going to live pain-free, I realized again that it was a fun little instrument to play.”

He added, “I’ve blocked all my health issues out of my mind. That’s a portion of my life that I’m done with. Now, I can’t wait for every day to come so I can wake up and plug in. I’m up there entertaining myself and my playing is stronger than ever, because my excitement is back.”

Ronnie Montrose always followed his heart. Ever anxious to take his music to the next level.

Born in Denver, Colorado, Montrose got his first break when he was invited to play on Van Morrison’s 1971 album, Tupelo Honey. Additional appearances on recordings by Herbie Hancock, Boz Scaggs, and the Edgar Winter Group soon followed before he formed his own band, Montrose, in 1973. In addition to the guitarist, the band consisted of a then-unknown Sammy Hagar on vocals, as well as bassist Bill Church and drummer Denny Carmassi.

The quartet issued one of rock’s all-time great debuts that year, their Zeppelin-esque album, Montrose, which spawned such soon-to-be hard rock standards as “Rock the Nation,” “Bad Motor Scooter,” “Space Station #5,” “Rock Candy” and “Make It Last,” all of which featured Montrose’s tasty guitar playing. Hagar, however, would only remain with the band for one more release (1974′s Paper Money) before exiting the group.

Still, the two Hagar/Montrose albums proved influential to subsequent bands, as evidenced by all the rock acts covering Montrose tunes, including Iron Maiden, who covered “I’ve Got the Fire” and “Space Station #5.” Interestingly, Van Halen (the group Hagar would eventually front for two separate stints) would cover the songs “Rock Candy” and “Make It Last” during their early club days.

Montrose the group (with singer Bob James filling Hagar’s spot) would soldier on for a few more releases in the Seventies before the guitarist issued an all-instrumental solo album, 1978′s Open Fire. He went on to form Gamma, which issued three albums between 1980 and 1983. From the Eighties onward, Montrose would alternate between issuing additional recordings from Montrose, Gamma, and as a solo artist.

Rock and metal musicians worldwide are responding to the news of Montrose’s passing.

Alterbridge vocalist Myles Kennedy paid his respects via Twitter early Sunday morning (March 4): “Sad to hear Ronnie Montrose passed away. Rock Candy was one of the first songs I ever learned.”    Slash tweeted his thoughts, after Kennedy told him the news: “Myles just told me Ronnie Montrose passed. fn’ shame. “Montrose” is one of the all time great R&R albums. Major influence. RIP man. IiiI; )’”

Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Gus G. Tweeted, “R.I.P. Ronnie Montrose.”

Eddie Trunk sent out his thoughts via Twitter, “Woke 2 very sad news Ronnie Montrose has passed away from cancer at 64. He created one of the all time landmark hard rock albums w/ debut LP… Also liked Gamma, but nothing touches the debut album, a masterpiece that influenced SO many rock & metal bands! RIP Ronnie Montrose.”

Ronnie Montrose, an absolute legend, gone at the age of 64. RIP Ronnie.

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