Iconic guitar maestro Ronald Douglas ‘Ronnie’ Montrose was born in San Francisco, California on November 29th, 1947. He is best known as an accomplished musician and innovative guitarist who took the world by storm in the early 70’s with the influential rock band Montrose.
While a toddler, Ronnie’s parents moved to Colorado. He left home around the age of 16 to pursue a career in music.
Ronnie started out in a band called Sawbuck, in 1969, with Bill Church (Whom Ronnie would later form Montrose with). While working with Sawbuck, Ronnie got his first big break when he was invited to play on Van Morrison’s 1971 album, Tupelo Honey. Ronnie then briefly played with Herbie Hancock, Beaver & Krause, Boz Scaggs and the Edgar Winter Group in 1972 before forming Montrose in 1973.
[Photo by Francesco Scavullo]
Montrose consisted of Ronnie on guitar, Bill Church on bass, Denny Carmassi on drums and, a then-unknown, Sammy Hagar on vocals. Liking what he heard, producer Ted Templeman helped the band secure a record deal with Warner Bros. That same year, the band would release one of rock’s all-time great debuts, the self-titled Montrose album.
Montrose spawned the classic fan favorites; Rock Candy, Bad Motor Scooter, Rock The Nation, Space Station #5, and Make It Last. Often cited as “America’s answer to Led Zeppelin”, the Montrose album would attain platinum status by selling in excess of one million copies and was held to be highly influential amongst hard rock and heavy metal musicians (Van Halen and Iron Maiden, to name a few).
Ronnie would go on to record three more albums with Montrose before disbanding; Paper Money (1974), Warner Brothers Presents… Montrose! (1975) and Jump On It (1976).
Ronnie also did some session work, including Gary Wrights’ Dream Weaver album. In 1978, Ronnie switched directions and released the guitar-instrumental solo album Open Fire before forming his next band Gamma in 1979. Gamma was a more AOR (Album Oriented Rock) band than Montrose, fusing keyboards into their sound.
Ronnie would release three albums with Gamma before disbanding; Gamma 1 (1979), Gamma 2 (1980) and Gamma 3 (1982).
Ronnie continued doing session and production throughout the 80’s and 90’s as well as releasing several solo albums. He released another album with Montrose in 1987 titled Mean and another album with Gamma in 2000 titled Gamma 4.
The original Montrose line-up reformed to play as a special guest at several Sammy Hagar concerts during the summer of 2004 and 2005. Ronnie also performed regularly from 2002 until his death in 2012 under the Montrose moniker. This incarnation of Montrose featured Randy Scoles on lead vocals along with Dan McNay on bass and Steve Brown on drums.
During his last tour in late 2009, Ronnie revealed that he had fought prostate cancer for two years. Ronnie passed away on March 3rd, 2012 leaving behind a son, Jesse, daughter, Kira, and wife, Leighsa.
Shortly after Ronnie’s untimely passing, longtime friends and business associates began planning an all-star concert in his honor. The concert took place at San Francisco, California’s historic Regency Ballroom on April 27th, 2012 and contained some of rock’s greatest talent paying homage to the guitarist who had been such a profound inspiration.
[Photo by Lance Leavitt]
Some of these performers were Ronnie’s former band mates, while others were merely impacted by Ronnie’s music. The estate of Ronnie Montrose has released these performances on a double DVD set, titled Concert For Ronnie Montrose: A Celebration Of His Life In Music.
Eddie Trunk narrates a short documentary about Ronnie before the actual concert begins. The cast of friends and musicians who turned up is quite lengthy and they all took great care in honoring Ronnie’s songs to the best of their abilities. The list includes the surviving original members of Montrose (Sammy Hagar, Denny Carmassi and Bill Church, with Joe Satriani), the surviving members of Gamma (Davey Pattison, Denny Carmassi and Glenn Letsch with Marc Bonilla), the surviving recent members of Montrose (Steve Brown, Dan McNay and Randy Scoles), Jeff Watson (ex-Night Ranger), Tesla (a band Ronnie mentored early on), Neal Schon (Journey), Ricky Phillips (Styx), Eric Martin (Mr. Big), Tommy Thayer (KISS), Eric Singer (KISS), Steve Smith (ex-Journey), Ed Roth, Keith St. John, Jimmy Paxson (Stevie Nicks), and more.
The double DVD set also includes interviews, bonus features, a photo gallery, and an additional set of Ronnie’s hits by an all-star band featuring Chuck Terpo, Mario Cipollina, Tal Morris, Dave Meniketti, Frank Hannon and the members of Y&T. This was recorded and filmed at Bob Weir’s TRI Studios.
Ronnie has been called the ‘Father Of American Hard Rock’, an innovator, and an incendiary guitar genius. He left behind an impressive, influential body of work that never quite got its due… until now. With great sound, expert video quality, and memorable performances, the ‘Concert For Ronnie Montrose: A Celebration Of His Life In Music‘ is a must have for any Ronnie Montrose fan. NEVER FORGET RONNIE MONTROSE!
For more information on Ronnie Montrose, or to order the DVD, please check out these sites:
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