Leighsa Montrose has posted a heart-felt thank you message for everyone involved with last weekend’s concert tribute to her late husband, the guitar virtuoso Ronnie Montrose.
A group of all-stars, including the surviving members of his seminal heavy-rock band Montrose, gathered Friday at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, Calif., to perform and pay respects to Montrose, who committed suicide in early March after a lengthy battle with cancer. Montrose’s Sammy Hagar, Denny Carmassi and Bill Church were joined by Joe Satriani, the guitarist in Hagar current band Chickenfoot. The evening also included appearances by Journey’s Neal Schon and Steve Smith, as well as members of Kiss, Styx, Y&T and Mr. Big. Members of Ronnie Montrose’s Gamma, which followed his self-titled group, also performed — including Davey Pattison, Denny Carmassi, Glen Lesch, Tommy Suczek and Marc Bonilla.
“Each and every one of you have contributed to making Friday’s show for Ronnie a night none of us will ever, ever forget,” Leighsa Montrose writes. “I know it would have left him speechless and moved beyond tears, as were we.”
The original Montrose lineup last reformed in 2004-05, appearing as a special guest at a series of Hagar concerts. Ronnie Montrose’s most recent studio albums were 1999’s solo effort Bearings and Gamma’s 2000 album Gamma 4. Best known for his eponymous band, formed in 1973, Montrose was also a respected sessions musician — having worked on celebrated albums with Van Morrison (Tupelo Honey), the Edgar Winter Group (They Only Come Out at Night), the Neville Brothers (Uptown), Herbie Hancock (Mwandishi) and Gary Wright (The Dream Weaver), as well as other dates with Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner, Bonilla, Nicolette Larson and Boz Scaggs. Over the years, Montrose’s albums and tours featured a well spring of talent, including the then-unknown Hagar, Edgar Winter, Aynsley Dunbar, Letsch, Mitchell Froom and Steve Smith, who went on to play on Journey’s biggest selling albums after being discovered by the band while on tour with Montrose.
Friday’s tribute concert also included an auction to benefit the Ronnie Montrose Fund for Bay Area Musicians, a foundation that offers assistance to struggling performers.
Leighsa concluded her note with her own tribute to Montrose’s many fans: “By and large the kindest letters Ronnie would receive from you and now I do on his behalf is that, his music is the ‘soundtrack of your life,'” she writes. “I gotta say, his style, charisma, charm and kindness is what moves all of us. Oh, and that one-of-a-kind guitar playing he so finely executed. Not to mention that his entire body of work is what blew us all away.”
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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Ronnie Montrose. Click through the titles for more …
‘RONNIE’S SOUND WAS HUGE': STEVE SMITH REMEMBERS MONTROSE, AS PREPARATIONS CONTINUE FOR TRIBUTE: Smith, who toured with Ronnie Montrose in 1978, says “Ronnie’s sound was huge and his time was settled and consistent. I thought he played melodies with a lot of soul and feeling. I really learned a lot from Ronnie about constructing a strong set and presenting instrumental music in a way that communicated to a large audience. We had a ball playing together. In some songs, we played guitar and drum duets that stretched on and on. Off-stage, he was fun and relaxed — but he was also a serious guy who was into psychology and philosophy.”
‘CELEBRATE RONNIE’S LIFE': MONTROSE FAMILY REACTS TO CONFIRMATION THAT HE COMMITTED SUICIDE: 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.”
WIFE OF LEGENDARY ROCK GUITARIST AT A LOSS FOR WORDS AFTER OUTPOURING OF SUPPORT: Leighsa Montrose, wife of Ronnie Montrose, says she has been “so moved and completely at a loss for words” over the outpouring of love and respect for the late legendary rock guitarist. “On behalf of our family I want to personally thank each and every one of you for your notes and letters of kindness, love and support,” Leighsa says. “At times, I am so moved and completely at a loss for words. Somehow even now they don’t seem to be enough to convey my gratitude. This is why I have not written until now.”
RONNIE MONTROSE DEAD AT 64 AFTER LONG BOUT WITH CANCER: The Montrose band’s self-titled ’73 debut, underrated at the time, has since become a touchstone recording in rock — serving as a reference point, for instance, in the mid-1970s work of Van Halen. Hagar was then part of a second edition of Van Halen, beginning in 1985. “Ronnie Montrose gave me my first break as a songwriter, as a front man, as a recording artist, as a touring artist, and for that I will always be grateful,” Hagar said, in a statement on Sunday. “I was looking forward to a reunion for my birthday bash in Cabo with Denny, Bill and Ronnie — one of the few bands from that era where all four original members were still able to do it. It’s a shame to lose Ronnie and I’m so sorry for his loved ones. Rest in peace.”