RIP Ronnie Montrose
I know a lot of you are probably asking, "Who is Ronnie Montrose?" True, not a name most casual music fans would recognize, but I can almost guarantee you've heard some of the music and musicians he was associated with. A versatile session guitarist, Montrose is perhaps best known for his work with Van Morrison on his Tupelo Honey album, which contained the hit "Wild Night," a song John Mellencamp had a hit with in 1994. He also worked with the Edgar Winter Group during that band's most successful period. In fact, here's a recent clip of Ronnie jamming onstage with Edgar on one of their classic rockers.
But for me personally, I became aware of Ronnie Montrose in the late 80s when I started exploring the back catalogue of one of my favourite rock singers, Sammy Hagar, who at that time of course was in Van Halen. I kept reading about this band called "Montrose" and sure enough, discovered their 1973 self-titled debut album. This album is one of those "in-the-know" cult classics for hard rock/heavy metal fans, even though over the years it quietly went platinum based on word-of-mouth, and bands like Iron Maiden who covered songs from it. It's interesting to note some parallels here. A band named after their guitar player, signed to Warner Bros. Records, produced by Ted Templeman. Sound familiar, Van Halen fans? In fact, rumours have circulated for years that Warner Brothers brass wanted Sammy Hagar to front Van Halen right from the start!! Here is a clip from Montrose featuring a young Hagar on lead vocals. This song remained in Hagar's setlists when he became a solo artist, and he still performs it today with Chickenfoot.
Sadly, Ronnie Montrose lost his battle with prostate cancer at the young age of 64.