||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2011)|
Montrose in 1974
|Birth name||Ronald Douglas Montrose|
November 29, 1947|
San Francisco, California, US
|Died||March 3, 2012
Brisbane, California, US
|Genres||Hard rock, heavy metal, instrumental rock, jazz fusion, blues rock|
|Occupations||Musician, songwriter, producer|
|Instruments||Guitar, mandolin, mandocello, bass guitar, koto, vocals|
|Associated acts||Montrose, Gamma, Edgar Winter Group, Van Morrison, Sawbuck|
|Gibson Les Paul|
Ronald Douglas "Ronnie" Montrose (November 29, 1947 – March 3, 2012) was an American rock guitarist, who led a number of his own bands as well as performed and did session work with a variety of musicians, including Sammy Hagar, Herbie Hancock, Van Morrison, The Beau Brummels, Boz Scaggs, Beaver & Krause, Gary Wright, Tony Williams, The Neville Brothers, Dan Hartman, Marc Bonilla, Edgar Winter, and Johnny Winter.
Montrose was born in San Francisco, California. When he was a toddler, his parents moved back to his mother's home state of Colorado (his father was from Bertrand, Nebraska, and his mother was from Golden, Colorado). He spent most of his younger years in Colorado until he ran away at about 16 years old to pursue his musical career. He ultimately spent most of his life in the San Francisco Bay area.
In 1969, he started out in a band called Sawbuck with Bill Church. Montrose had been in the process of recording, what would have been his first album with Sawbuck, when producer David Rubinson arranged an audition with Van Morrison. Montrose got the job and played on Morrison's 1971 album Tupelo Honey. He also played on the song "Listen to the Lion", which was recorded during the Tupelo Honey sessions but released on Morrison's next album Saint Dominic's Preview (1972).
Montrose played briefly with Boz Scaggs and then joined the Edgar Winter Group in 1972, recording electric guitar, acoustic 12 string, and mandolin on Winter's third album release, They Only Come Out at Night (1972), which included the hit singles "Frankenstein" and "Free Ride". He then formed his own band, Montrose, in 1973, featuring Sammy Hagar on vocals. That incarnation of the band released two albums on Warner Bros. Records, Montrose (1973) and Paper Money (1974), before Hagar left to pursue a solo career. Although the liner notes for the CD edition of Paper Money said that Montrose was offered to play lead guitar for Mott the Hoople, when he left the Edgar Winter Group, Montrose says that it never happened and was just a rumor. He also added his guitar work to Gary Wright's song, "Power of Love" off the 1975 album, The Dream Weaver.
The guitarist released two more Montrose band albums in the rock/vocal format (Warner Brothers Presents... Montrose! (1975) and Jump on It (1976), featuring vocalist Bob James replacing Sammy Hagar), then shifted direction and under the name of 'Ronnie Montrose' released the guitar-instrumental solo album Open Fire (1978) before returning to the rock-vocal format and forming Gamma in 1979, initially releasing three albums under that name with Davey Pattison singing.
In 1985 he joined Seattle's Rail (winners of MTV's first Basement Tapes video competition) for several months. He was looking for a new band and one of Rail's guitarists, Rick Knotts, had recently left. Billed as Rail featuring Ronnie Montrose or Ronnie & Rail, they played a set of half Rail favorites and half Montrose songs ("Rock Candy", "Rock the Nation", "Matriarch", and Gamma's remake of Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air"). At the end of the tour, there was an amicable split.
Ronnie Montrose appeared on Sammy Hagar's Marching to Mars (1997) along with original Montrose members Bill Church and Denny Carmassi on the song "Leaving the Warmth of the Womb". The original Montrose lineup also reformed to play as a special guest at several Sammy Hagar concerts in summer 2004 and 2005. Ronnie Montrose also performed regularly from 2002 until his death with a Montrose lineup featuring Keith St. John on lead vocals and a rotating cast of veteran hard rock players on bass and drums.
During his last tour in late 2009, Montrose revealed that he had fought prostate cancer for two years; however, the cancer returned soon after that tour ended.
- Open Fire (1978)
- Territory (1986)
- The Speed of Sound (1988)
- The Diva Station (1990)
- Mutatis Mutandis (1991)
- Music from Here (1994)
- Mr. Bones (1996)
- Roll Over and Play Live (1999)
- Bearings (1999)
- Montrose (1973)
- Paper Money (1974)
- Warner Brothers Presents... Montrose! (1975)
- Jump On It (1976)
- Mean (1987)
- The Very Best of Montrose (2000)
- Van Morrison - Tupelo Honey (1971)
- Herbie Hancock - Mwandishi (1971) "Ostinato (Suite for Angela)"
- Beaver & Krause - Gandharva (1971) "Saga of the Blue Beaver"
- Kendall Kardt - Buddy Bolden (unreleased solo LP 1971) "Buddy Bolden" & "Black Train"  with Jerry Garcia
- Victoria - Victoria (1971) "Song About the Sun", "We've Got Ways to Keep High"
- Boz Scaggs - Unreleased Muscle Shoals tapes (1971)
- Edgar Winter Group - They Only Come Out at Night (1972)
- Sawbuck - Sawbuck (1972) "Believe" and "Lovin' Man"
- Van Morrison - Saint Dominic's Preview (1972) "Listen to the Lion"
- Van Morrison - The Philosopher's Stone (1971/1972) "Ordinary People" & "Wonderful Remark" [compilation released 1999]
- Kathi McDonald - Insane Asylum (1973) "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave", "Heartbreak Hotel" & "If You Need Me"
- Gary Wright - The Dream Weaver (1975) "Power of Love"
- The Beau Brummels - The Beau Brummels (1975) "Down to the Bottom"
- Dan Hartman - Images (1976) "The Party's in the Back Room" & "High Sign"
- Tony Williams - The Joy of Flying (1978) "Open Fire"
- Nicolette Larson - In the Nick of Time (1979) "Just in the Nick of Time"
- Lauren Wood - Lauren Wood (1979) "Dirty Work" (Steely Dan cover)
- Jamie Sheriff - No Heroes (1980) "Soldier"
- Paul Kantner - Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra (1983) "(She Is a) Telepath"
- The Neville Brothers - Uptown (1987) "Whatever It Takes"
- Various Artists - Guitar Speak (1988) "Blood Alley 152"
- Heist - High Heel Heaven (1989) "She Needs Love", "Tighter"
- Various Artists - Born to Ski soundtrack (1991) "Born to Ski"
- Marc Bonilla - EE Ticket (1991) "Razorback"
- Marc Bonilla - American Matador (1993) "I Am the Walrus" (instrumental cover)
- Anti-m - Positively Negative (1995) "Security", "Television", "Lonely" and "Iniki"
- Edgar Winter - The Real Deal (1996) "Eye of the Storm"
- Sammy Hagar - Marching to Mars (1997) "Leaving the Warmth of the Womb"
- CJ Hutchins - Out of These Hands (1998) "Cannonball" (bass), "Cross-Leg", "Rock Me to Sleep", "Out of These Hands", "What Went Wrong" (bass) & "Circus Song"
- David Culiner - Implode (1999) "Human Shield"
- Jerry Jennings - Shortcut to the Center (1999) [Released in 2005] "Observation" (acoustic), "One Blue Lady" (lead)
- Bruce Turgon - Outside Looking in (2005) "Outside Looking in"
- Various Artists - The Songs of Pink Floyd (2002) & Back Against the Wall (2005) "Another Brick in the Wall (Pt. 2)"
- Various Artists - Secondhand Smoke - A Tribute to Frank Marino (2005) "Try for Freedom"
- Kevin Crider - Signatures (2006) "Stratosphere"
- Mitchell Froom - Key of Cool (1984)
- Jeff Berlin/Vox Humana - Champion (1985) Background vocals
- Wrath - Nothing to Fear (1987)
- Heathen - Breaking the Silence (1987)
- CJ Hutchins - Out of These Hands (1998) Guitar, bass
- Jerry Jennings - Shortcut to the Center (1999) [Released in 2005]
- Y&T - Unearthed, Vol. 2 (2005) Composer
Ronnie Montrose was married to his wife and manager Leighsa Montrose and had two children, son Jesse and daughter Kira, and at the time of his death had five grandchildren.
On March 3, 2012, Ronnie Montrose took his own life. The San Mateo County Coroner’s Office released a report on April 6 that confirmed the guitarist died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Montrose did not leave a suicide note.
Montrose had a difficult life that led him to be very self-critical and may have contributed to his long-term alcoholism. The toxicology reported a blood-alcohol level of 0.31 % (four times the legal limit for driving in California) at the time of death. In early 2012, the deaths of his uncle and Lola (his beloved bulldog, whose companionship helped him cope with his cancer recovery) contributed to depression.
On the morning of March 3, 2012 at 11:01 A.M., a series of text messages with his wife Leighsa preceded the suicide:
- "...I have the .38 in my hand and am ready to go."
- "I’m so sorry. Still have the gun in my hand. I’m going on that voyage. I love you beyond measure."
At this point Leighsa called Ronnie and asked him to come to her location. He agreed. After a few minutes, Leighsa decided to not wait and go to Ronnie, but noticed another text on her phone.
- "I can’t. I’ve got the gun to my head."
Leighsa rushed home with her mother, where they found Ronnie Montrose dead in his living room. He was pronounced dead at noon.
- Ben Sisario (March 6, 2012). "Ronnie Montrose, Hard-Rock Guitarist, Dies at 64". The New York Times. Retrieved April 11, 2012.
- Perrone, Pierre (March 13, 2012). "Ronnie Montrose: Hard-rocking and influential guitarist". www.independent.co.uk. Retrieved March 13, 2012.
- Grissim, John (January 31, 1976). "Ronnie Montrose: Roar of White Noise". The Morning Record. Rolling Stone.
- VanderBeek, Brian (September 1, 2011). "Ronnie Montrose is back and ready to rock". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- "Ronnie Montrose Biography". musicianguide.com. Retrieved 2010-09-11.
- Prown, Pete; Newquist, Harvey P.; & Eiche, Jon F. (1997). Legends of Rock Guitar. Hal Leonard. pp. 112–113. ISBN 0-7935-4042-9.
- "Ronnie Montrose and his guitar are happy to be back in action". The Modesto Bee. 2009-11-27. Retrieved 2010-09-11.[dead link]
- "Ronnie Montrose Death Ruled a Suicide". Guitar Player. 2012-04-10. Retrieved 2012-04-10.
- Ronnie Montrose's Official MySpace
- Ronnie Montrose Info Page
- Ronnie Montrose Biography
- Ronnie Montrose website