2012 – Guitarist extraordinaire, Ronnie Montrose passed away today on This Day in Rock Music History!

2012 – Guitarist extraordinaire, Ronnie Montrose passed away today on This Day in Rock Music History!

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, Edgar Winter, and Johnny Winter.


Montrose was born in San Francisco. 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 David Rubinson, the producer, 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 put out 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 Ronnie was offered to play lead guitar for Mott the Hoople when he left the Edgar Winter Group, Ronnie 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 continued to put out albums as “Montrose” (Warner Brothers Presents… Montrose! and Jump on It) or “Ronnie Montrose” (Open Fire) until he formed Gamma in 1979, initially putting out three albums using that moniker with Davey Pattison singing.

In 1983 he played lead guitar on the song “(She Is A) Telepath” from Paul Kantner’s album Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra although he wasn’t a member of the original PERRO.

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.

He continued to record through the 1980s and 1990s, releasing another Montrose album entitled ‘Mean’ and Gamma put out a fourth album in 2000.

Ronnie Montrose appeared on Sammy Hagar’s Marching To Mars 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 has also performed regularly from 2002 to present with a Montrose lineup featuring Keith St. John on lead vocals and a rotating cast of veteran hard rock players on bass and drums.

On his most recent tour, in late 2009, Montrose revealed that he had successfully fought prostate cancer over the last two years; however, the cancer returned soon after. On March 3, 2012, having battled the disease for almost five years, Montrose died from prostate cancer. He was 64.


Solo albums

  • 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)

With Montrose

  • Montrose (1973)
  • Paper Money (1974)
  • Warner Brothers Presents… Montrose! (1975)
  • Jump On It (1976)
  • Mean (1987)
  • The Very Best of Montrose (2000)

With Gamma

  • Gamma 1 (1979)
  • Gamma 2 (1980)
  • Gamma 3 (1982)
  • Gamma 4 (2000)
  • The Best of Gamma (1992)

Session work

  • 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
  • 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”
  • 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”
  • 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
  • Y&T – Unearthed, Vol. 2 (2005) Composer
  • Jerry Jennings – Shortcut to the Center (2006)

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