'Celebrate Ronnie's life': Montrose family reacts to confirmation that he committed suicide

A new report confirms that guitar hero Ronnie Montrose, who had been battling cancer for years, took his own life.

The Montrose family statement, issued in the wake of his March 3, 2012, passing, actually made a veiled reference to suicide, saying: “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.”

Montrose, who was born in San Francisco in 1947, initially rose to fame in 1971 as sideman with Van Morrison on the breakout hit album Tupelo Honey. He also was a member of the Edgar Winter Group, before forming the band Montrose with future Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar in 1973. Montrose would issue five albums through 1987, while Ronnie Montrose released eight albums under his own name — along with four as part of the experimental rock group Gamma.

Montrose passed at age 64, even as plans were coming together for a reunion of the original Montrose lineup this summer. The San Mateo County coroner’s office says Montrose died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and that his blood-alcohol level was more than four times over the legal limit.

The Montrose family has issued a new statement, in the wake of these revelations: “We hope you can understand why we wanted to keep this a family matter for as long as possible. We can only hope you choose to celebrate Ronnie’s life, and what his music meant to you, rather than mourn his passing. Ronnie would have wanted it that way.”

The remaining members of Montrose will lead an all-star cast of rock musicians gathering on April 27, 2012, to honor the band’s late leader Ronnie Montrose.

Hagar will join fellow original Montrose cohorts Denny Carmassi and Bill Church, along with special guest Joe Satriani — guitarist in Hagar’s current band Chickenfoot. Also scheduled to perform are members of Montrose’s subsequent band Gamma, Neal Schon and Steve Smith of Journey fame, Ricky Phillips of Styx, Eric Singer of Kiss, Eric Martin of Mr. Big, Jimmy Degrasso of Y&T and member of Tesla. Denny Carmassi will perform with both Montrose and Gamma; Marc Bonilla will also be featured with Gamma.

The event, called “A Concert for Ronnie Montrose: A Celebration Of His Life In Music,” will take place at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, California. For more, go to TheRegencyBallroom.com.

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