Ronnie Montrose 1947-2012Legendary American rock guitarist Ronnie Montrose died earlier today (Saturday, March 3) after a five-year battle with prostate cancer. He was 64 years old. Montrose's official web site has been updated with the following message:
"A few months ago, we held a surprise party for Ronnie Montrose's 64th birthday. 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.
"He passed today. He'd battled cancer, and staved off old age for long enough. And true to form, he chose his own exit the way he chose his own life. We miss him already, but we're glad to have shared with him while we could."
In a September 2011 interview with North County Times, Montrose revealed that he didn't pick up his guitar for two years following his cancer diagnosis. "I had prostate cancer that, for me, was debilitating," he said. "I didn't touch a guitar for two years, but when I realized I was seeing the light at the end of the recovery tunnel and was going to live pain-free, I realized again that it was a fun little instrument to play."
He added, "I've blocked all my health issues out of my mind. That's a portion of my life that I'm done with. Now, I can't wait for every day to come so I can wake up and plug in. I'm up there entertaining myself and my playing is stronger than ever, because my excitement is back."
Ronnie Montrose always followed his heart. Ever anxious to take his music to the next level, in 1979 he founded the trailblazing band GAMMA, a group whose trio of ahead-of-their-time albums were an explosion of guitar and synthesizer pyrotechnics anchored by a bluesy edge.
Between and beyond these band forays, Montrose the player devoted himself to exploring instrumental guitar music on landmark albums like "Open Fire" and "The Speed Of Sound". Fans periodically clamored for another taste of the original MONTROSE power trio format, but he wouldn't revisit MONTROSE — that huge, heavy sound; those rich, pealing riffs — until the time came when he could do it with total conviction.