Mystery Surrounds Death Of Ronnie Montrose
Police confirm guitar icon Ronnie Montrose’s death is still under investigation – after fans believed he’d been victim in cancer battle.
Report by Martin Kielty
The tragic death of Ronnie Montrose is still under investigation, police have revealed to Classic Rock – despite fans’ belief that the 64-year-old last month lost his battle against cancer.
The guitar legend, who worked with artists including Sammy Hagar, Van Morrison and Edgar Winter, passed away on March 3.
He had been fighting prostate cancer for several years, and fans assumed the killer disease ended his life. Their belief was reinforced by a carefully worded statement from his official website – although Montrose himself had recently said his cancer was in remission, and unlikely to return.
Now police officers, investigating the incident in Brisbane, San Mateo County, California, have admitted it’s not an open-and-shut case – and they’ve refused to reveal further details, pending a coroner’s inquest.
Responding to a Classic Rock inquiry, Jeannette Maldonado of Brisbane Police said: “This department has received your request for a copy of the report involving Mr Ronnie Montrose.
“This case is still under investigation, pending the coroner’s report, and is not available for release.”
A straightforward coroner’s autopsy, when cause of death is known or strongly suspected, can take between two and six hours to complete.
After Montrose’s death at the beginning of March, his official website released a statement saying: “A few months ago we held a surprise party for Ronnie’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.
“True to form, he chose his own exit the way he chose his own life.”
In August 2011 Montrose told Modbee.com: “I had prostate cancer, that for me was debilitating. I didn’t touch a guitar for two years, but when I realised I was seeing the light at the end of the recovery tunnel, and was going to live pain-free, I realised again that it was a fun little instrument to play.
“I’ve blocked all my health issues out of my mind. That’s a portion of my life that I’m done with.”
Ronald Douglas Montrose, who built a reputation as both musician and producer, was born in San Francisco in 1947. He grew up in Colorado, learning guitar, before leaving home at the age of 16 to pursue his dream of becoming a professional musician.
His big break came in 1971 when Van Morrison hired him to play on his album Tupelo Honey. He went on to perform with Boz Scaggs and the Edgar Winter Group, then formed Montrose with future Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar in 1973. The band released five albums with various line-ups until 1987. Montrose also released eight albums under his own name, along with four as a member of experimental outfit Gamma.
Last year he discussed the possibility of reuniting with Hagar, who now fronts Chickenfoot, saying: “We may do a reunion show for fun – and at this point in our lives it would just be for fun.”
There’s a giant feature on Ronnie Montrose in the new issue of Classic Rock, which is on sale now.