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Monday, March 5, 2012

R.I.P. Ronnie Montrose, Bay Area Rock Guitarist, 1947-2012

Posted By on Mon, Mar 5, 2012 at 9:27 AM

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Ronnie Montrose, the intense guitarist and songwriter who led the band Montrose and helped bring Sammy Hagar to the world's attention, died Saturday, March, 3, of complications from prostate cancer, according to a posting on his website. He was 64.

Throughout a 40-year career, Montrose worked with rockers such as Boz Scaggs and Van Morrison (with whom he recorded the 1971 classic Tupelo Honey), but saw the most success with the hard-rock outfit of his own name. Montrose's self-titled 1973 debut and its 1974 follow-up, Paper Money, are early hard-rock classics that would go on to inspire groups like Iron Maiden and Van Halen.

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Echoes of Eddie Van Halen's legendary guitar sound can be heard in the buzzing, sharp-cornered blare Montrose shows off on early songs like "Rock Candy," "Rock the Nation" and "Bad Motor Scooter." Producer Ted Templeton, who worked on Montrose, would later use the album as a sonic blueprint for Van Halen, and the similarities are obvious.

The band also launched the singing career of its frontman, Sammy Hagar, although Hagar eventually left the group over differences with Ronnie Montrose and went on to record solo before joining Van Halen. After years of bad blood, Montrose and Hagar eventually made up, with the original Montrose lineup recording the song "Leaving the Warmth of the Womb" for Hagar's 1997 solo album Marching to Mars, and performing live onstage together.

Viewed by many as an under-appreciated guitar god, Montrose lately spent most of his time working on solo projects. He played close to 50 shows last year, according to SF Gate, and was finishing up a live DVD slated for release later in 2012. An S.F. native, Montrose and his wife and manager, Leighsa Montrose, lived in Millbrae.

Montrose was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007. He is survived by his wife, a son, a daughter, and five grandchildren.

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