On March 3rd 2012, guitarist Ronnie Montrose passed away.
For many classic rock fans, he is a man who needs no introduction. A hard working guitarist, Montrose was responsible for a handful of genuine rock classics in his own right as well as having appeared on various other well known sessions.
His eponymously named band propelled the now legendary vocalist Sammy Hagar into the spotlight, with their 1973 debut release hosting a couple of well-worn and often covered tracks: ‘Bad Motor Scooter’ and ‘Space Station #5’. The album inspired a generation of musicians, not least of all Edward Van Halen, who cited Montrose as a key influence and eventually hired Hagar for his own band just over a decade later.
Most rock guitarists would consider it a great achievement to have such a great album within their back catalogue, but Montrose’s legacy runs far deeper. Not only did he put his stamp on a few other greatly enjoyable Montrose records during the 1970s, but his follow up band – the often overlooked Gamma – recorded material which has worn the test of time incredibly well. Just check out 1980’s ‘Gamma 2’ (more specifically, the wondrous ‘Voyager’) for instant proof. [At the beginning of 2012, UK vocalist Lee Small played tribute to Montrose on his ‘Jamaica Inn‘ album with a great cover of this tune.]
In addition, Montrose can also be heard on Van Morrison’s ‘Saint Dominic’s Preview’, where his guitar lines are absolutely pivotal to the wandering slow-burner ‘Listen To The Lion’ and parts of Edgar Winter’s 1973 outing ‘They Only Come Out at Night’, both albums which have achieved a cult classic status.
Ronnie revived the Montrose moniker in the 80s and Gamma in the 00s, but also released a string of solo releases throughout the 1990s. He also never forgot those whose who had strong connections with his earlier work, appearing as a session man for both Sammy Hagar and Edgar Winter in the 1990s. For the last decade of his life, his output became more sporadic, but he lent his style and guitar chops to a few sessions, appearing on a couple of “all star tribute albums. The last few years were hardly a fitting epitaph for such an influential figure, but after his Montrose and Gamma works, Ronnie Montrose was a man who had nothing to prove.
Look back at a couple of Ronnie Montrose’s 1970 career highlights below.