The problem with coming late on a trend is that unless there's a new twist it's easy to get lost in the pack. That was Montrose's fate. Macho crotch Rock had been done to death by British and U.S. Rockers and nobody was really clamoring for yet another take on it. Still, Montrose could deliver with songs like "Rock The Nation," "Bad Motor Scooter" and "Rock Candy" (all on their self-titled debut).
Ronnie Montrose made a name for himself as a session guitarist for Gary Wright ("Dream Weaver") and Van Morrison ("St. Dominic's Preview" and "Tupelo Honey"). Following a brief stay with the Edgar Winter Group ("They Only Come Out At Night"), Montrose was asked to join Mott The Hopple.
Declining, Montrose decided to start his own group in '73 with Sammy Hagar on vocals. Montrose managed a handful of albums treading familiar Rock themes. Despite decent sales, the group could barely get passed opening act status. In '75, Hagar split for a solo career that was only marginally more successful. Montrose picked up vocalist Bob James but that failed to turn things around.
Montrose, issued a solo album in '78, "Open Fire." A year later, he and vocalist Davey Pattison formed Gamma. The group included bassist Alan Fitzgerald who'd also been in Montrose. But Gamma was only marginally successful and ended its initial run after only three albums ("Gamma 1,2,3"). Montrose then resumed his solo career.
Following a five-year battle with prostate cancer, Montrose died on March 3rd, '12. He was 64 years old.
"Ronnie Montrose gave me my first break as a songwriter, as a front man, as a recording artist, as a touring artist, and for that I will always be grateful," said Hagar.
"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," said a message on the Montrose website.
Considering how the statement was worded, it seemed that Montrose succumbed to cancer but actually the line "he chose his own exit" was more revealing than initially thought.
Weeks after Montrose's death a coroner's report surfaced stating that the guitarist had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
"By now, the devastating truth of Ronnie's death is public knowledge," the Montrose website stated. "We hope you can understand why we wanted to keep this news a private family matter for as long as possible. We can only hope that you will choose to celebrate Ronnie's life, and what his music meant to you, rather than mourn his passing. Ronnie would have wanted it that way. He loved being a guitarist, a composer, a producer, and a creator of magic. Please keep his energy, his joy, and his love in your hearts."
1974 Paper Money
1975 Warner Brothers Presents... Montrose!
1976 Jump On It
2000 The Very Best of Montrose
Ronnie Montrose Solo Albums:
1978 Open Fire
1988 The Speed Of Sound
1990 The Diva Station
1991 Mutatis Mutandis
1994 Music From Here
1996 Mr. Bones
1999 Roll Over And Play Live
Debut album "Montrose" is a far better record than sales indicate. Glam Rock, Country-Rock and the whole singer-songwriter trend pushed it to the peripheral. Successive recordings like "Jump On It," with the provocative cover, are less consistent and tread the same turf. The "Very Best Of Montrose" is an eighteen song collection that cuts to the group's essence without breaking the bank.