Ronnie Montrose died today at the age of 64.
Growing up, we’d joke around that his band Montrose was actually named for the town of Montrose, Iowa. It’s an odd town nestled on the bank of the Mississippi river where the chief export is crystal meth.
I’m being mean, but you get the idea of the kind of weird I’m talking about when I drawn these kind of examples to this town of a thousand or so residents.
But I’m being honest when I tell you that Montrose (the band) found their initial audience not with Ronnie’s previous work, or even in the talent of then unknown Sammy Hagar, but instead with a name recognition with the small town of the same name and some awesome music found within Montrose’s debut.
The real shit of Ronnie’s passing today is that you never heard of him. I think that debut album did go gold, which means that it did game some bit of notoriety during its time, but it was never the success that it should have been and not as much credit for Ronnie Montrose is given as it should have been.
You could even go on to suggest that a band like Van Halen wouldn’t have been possible without Montrose paving the way. The two were obviously different and Montrose may not have been able to achieve the same kind of success that V.H. had, but there are linear similarities aside from the Sammy Hagar connect and the use of producer Ted Templeman.
It’s unclear how he died at this point-most outlets are suggesting that he succumbed to prostate cancer-but some of them are also hinting at other things, referencing things like “personal demons” and the nature of how his life ended.
There are hints that Ronnie was more of a right-winger than most typical rock and rollers and even Hagar has suggested that Montrose could have been a lot bigger than they were had Ronnie been easier to work with.
Regardless of all of this, he left us with a perfect hard rock debut and a catalog of unrealized potential. But more than anything, he left us with another chance to explore his body of work and grant him the credit he deserves.