Rock guitarist Ronnie Montrose passed away on March 3, according to his official website.

The cause of death has not yet been announced, but he had battled cancer in his final years.

His website’s homepage posted a 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.”

Montrose was an in-demand guitar player in the early ’70s, playing for artists as diverse as Van Morrison, Herbie Hancock, Boz Skaggs and The Edgar Winter Group. In 1973, he formed his own hard rock band, called Montrose, featuring lead singer Sammy Hagar. Their self titled debut, also from 1973, featured the band’s most well known song, “Bad Motor Scooter.”  Hagar left after their second album, 1974’s Paper Money, to start his solo career.  Ronnie Montrose kept the band together for a few years, but later recorded solo albums, played on other artists’ records, and formed a band called Gamma in the years that followed.

He would re-form different versions of Montrose in the years that followed, and the original version of the band reunited occasionally, performing at Sammy Hagar’s solo concerts.  They also recorded a track, “Leaving The Warmth Of The Womb” for Hagar’s 1997 album, Marching To Mars.  The band was an influence on a number of hard rock groups from Van Halen (who hired Montrose producer Ted Templeman, to produce many of their albums, including 1991’s Hagar-era For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge) and Iron Maiden (who covered Montrose’s “Space Station #5” and “I Got The Fire”).

Some rockers have already taken to Twitter to express their respect, with Slash Tweeting “‘Montrose’ is one of the all time great R&R albums.Major influence. RIP man.” Slash’s Guns N Roses/Velvet Revolver bandmate Matt Sorum added “Lost the great Ronnie Montrose. Check out the first couple of Montrose records if you don’t know him. Classic and great. RIP Ronnie.” Blues/rock artist Joe Bonamassa Tweeted “Rest in Peace Ronnie Montrose. I have always been a fan of his playing and tone. 1959 Gibson Les Paul at its best.” Ozzy Osbourne‘s guitarist Gus G. simply wrote “R.I.P. Ronnie Montrose.”


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