Guitar hero Ronnie Montrose dies at 64

Ronnie Montrose, one of rock’s premiere guitarists, died on Saturday in his Millbrae home after a five-year battle with prostate cancer.

Montrose, 64, is perhaps best known for his namesake band that introduced Sammy Hagar to the music world in the early ’70s.

Montrose’s passing was announced yesterday on his website in a two-paragraph statement. The announcement painted a scene of the San Francisco native at his recent birthday party:

“He gave an impromptu speech, and told us that after a long life, filled with joy and hardship, he didn’t take any of our love for granted. […] We miss him already, but we’re glad to have shared with him while we could.”

Born on November 24, 1947 at San Francisco’s St. Luke’s Hospital, Montrose’s family moved to Denver when he was just two years old. Upon returning to the Bay Area in 1969, he received his first big break when he was invited to record on Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey” (1971) and “Saint Dominic’s Preview” (1972).

In 1973, he formed his band Montrose. With Hagar as the frontman, the band’s debut record produced radio hits such as “Bad Motor Scooter” and “Rock Candy.” After Hagar’s departure, Montrose continued with two more studio albums and eventually disbanded in 1976.

Montrose’s musical career continued with his band Gamma, which was followed up with solo instrumental rock and jazz records. He established himself as an A-list sideman, and played with greats like Herbie Hancock and Boz Scaggs.

Wife and manager Leighsa Montrose described her husband as a perfectionist at his craft:

“He was very hard on himself. 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.”

As news spread about Montrose’s death, rock’s heavyweights weighed in on their fellow musician’s passing. Slash of Velvet Revolver and Guns n’ Roses called the loss an “Fn’ shame” and David Ellefson of Megadeth called Montrose a “powerhouse human being and ferocious guitarist.”

Montrose is survived by his wife, two brothers, son, daughter and five grandchildren.

No memorial plans have been announced.