Vocalist Robert "Bob" James, who replaced Sammy Hagar in MONTROSE and sang on the band's albums "Warner Bros. Presents" (1975) and "Jump On It" (1976), has released the following statement to BLABBERMOUTH.NET regarding the passing of his former bandmate Ronnie Montrose (MONTROSE, GAMMA):
"I am sorry to hear of Ronnie's passing at a time that seems far too early. Just as he did with Sammy Hagar, Ronnie introduced me to the professional rock world in a way that changed my life.
"When Ronnie hired me in 1975, I went from being a huge MONTROSE fan to becoming an actual member of my favorite band literally overnight. It was my wildest dream come true and Ronnie was as excited as I was. My audition took place in Ted Templeman's office at Warner Bros. in Burbank; it was just Ronnie playing acoustic guitar and me singing. From that magical and nervous introduction through the recording of 'Warner Bros. Presents' and 'Jump On It', and the extensive touring we did together, I learned more from working with Ronnie than I could ever have imagined.
"Courtesy of our manager Bill Graham, we spent several weeks rehearsing at Winterland in San Francisco in preparation for what would be a brutal tour across the USA and Canada. There was little time for sleep since Bill always booked us on the biggest shows of the day, sharing the stage with legends such as KISS, LYNYRD SKYNYRD, AEROSMITH, and THE ROLLING STONES. The pressure was on and Ronnie knew we had to be at our very best on these high-profile gigs. He really pushed us, but his tough work ethic paid off, because when we headlined our own shows we consistently got called back for three or four encores.
"Ronnie always told me that he had his own personal limitations, but I feel he made the very most out of his God-given talent.
"For me, Ronnie's greatest quality was probably his unwillingness to adhere to a standard formula, and his insistence on keeping things fresh. Under Ronnie's direction, MONTROSE were never a jukebox that just played the record, but a band who were always pushed to create new and innovative ways of presenting our recordings onstage every night. It was a fun and wild ride, and the experience taught me invaluable lessons.
"I remain grateful to Ronnie for having chosen me to make the journey with him, and regret that we'll never share the stage together one more time.
"Ronnie's unique influence and legacy will live on through his recordings, and I am honored to have been a part of that history.
"My prayers go out to Ronnie's wife and children, and I wish them the very best at this difficult time.
"Ronnie — rest in peace brother, and may the white spotlight shine on you brightly."
Ronnie Montrose died on Saturday, March 3 after a five-year battle with prostate cancer. He was 64 years old.
Born in Denver, Colorado, Montrose's first break when he played Van Morrison's classic 1971 album, "Tupelo Honey". He also appeared on recordings by Boz Scaggs and the EDGAR WINTER GROUP (1972's "They Only Come Out At Night") before going solo under the MONTROSE moniker in 1973 (with a very young Sammy Hagar on vocals). The MONTROSE band released two albums, "Montrose" and "Paper Money", before Hagar left to pursue a solo career. Montrose continued to release albums with the MONTROSE band, but focused his attention mostly on his solo career as well as his other band, GAMMA, which released four albums between 1979 and 2000.
After being diagnosed with cancer in 2007, Montrose took some time off from playing and performing to focus on his health.