Ronnie Montrose, fiery guitarist for top acts, dies. Guitarist Ronnie Montrose, one of rock's great sidemen, whose namesake band introduced Sammy Hagar to the world, died Saturday. He was 64.
The cause was complications from prostate cancer, said his wife and manager, Leighsa Montrose.
Mr. Montrose, a San Francisco native, got his first break when he was hired to play guitar on Van Morrison's 1971 album, "Tupelo Honey." His career as a sideman continued with Boz Scaggs, Herbie Hancock and the Edgar Winter Group, playing on the hits "Frankenstein" and "Free Ride."
But his greatest success came with his own band, Montrose, which he formed in 1973. The original lineup featured Hagar on vocals and released two Led Zeppelin-inspired albums considered rock classics, "Montrose," and 1974's "Paper Money." The hits "Bad Motor Scooter," "Rock Candy" and "Space Station No. 5" became FM radio staples.
The group continued to release albums after Hagar left to pursue a solo career and eventually front Van Halen. In 1979, Mr. Montrose went on to try commercial hard rock with Gamma and made several serious solo records.
The original Montrose lineup, which also included the bassist Bill Church and drummer Denny Carmassi, regrouped in 1997 on the song "Leaving the Warmth of the Womb" on Hagar's solo album "Marching to Mars." They also played onstage together on Hagar's subsequent tour in support of the release. Mr. Montrose was well regarded among guitarists for his fiery style.
"He was very hard on himself," his wife said. "He would play shows where there would be three standing ovations, and all he would talk about on the drive home is what he didn't do right."
Mr. Montrose was born on Nov. 29, 1947, at St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco. When he was 2 years old, his family moved to Denver. He started playing guitar at 17 and returned to the Bay Area to start his first band, called Sawbuck, in 1969 with Church. Two years later, he was introduced to Van Morrison, who had moved here to record "Tupelo Honey" and its follow-up album, "St. Dominic's Preview."
"More than being a guitar god, he was just a good person," Leighsa Montrose said. "He was somebody who was loved by so many people."
After his initial cancer diagnosis in 2007, Mr. Montrose took two years off to recover from surgery but spent his later years touring. He played close to 50 shows last year. "He wanted to do more this year," Leighsa Montrose said. "I have 25 contracts on my desk I was supposed to sign."
Mr. Montrose was finishing production on a live DVD for release this year. "He was very excited and very passionate about being out there playing," his wife said. In addition to his wife, Mr. Montrose, who lived in Millbrae, is survived by brothers Rick and Mike; son Jessie; daughter Kira Ratliff; and five grandchildren.
No memorial plans have been announced.