Ronnie Montrose – Pictures and Memories from Photographer Mark Bowman
The death of Ronnie Montrose over the weekend saddened many in the rock world, and tributes to the guitar hero poured in from his former bandmate Sammy Hagar as well as many other peers and younger rockers. We were particularly impressed by the written tribute and pictures sent to us by photographer Mark Bowman, so we decided to share them with you.
Bowman’s photographs have appeared in England’s Genesis Publications along with Rolling Stone and Texas Monthly, and he developed both a personal and professional relationship with Montrose over the years. Here’s his thoughts on the passing of his friend:
…I took the news personally as Ronnie Montrose was a friend of mine, so there was the double whammy of the loss of a guitar player I greatly admired since his stint with Edgar Winter in the early 1970’s and yet also a buddy.
Being a rock photographer of some local notoriety in Houston, Texas, I met Ronnie while he was out on the road and was immediately taken by what an open and friendly guy he seemed to be. He seemed genuinely enthused as we would review photos, and actively get involved in the process. As the years went by, we would run into each other and just repeat the cycle. The conversation would usually morph into a story about his latest camping or fishing trip in his beloved Northern California off road wilderness.
One time, I brought my sister, Jan, to one of Ronnie’s gigs. He was out on the road with a new “Montrose,” with the classic 4 piece attack, and the first song he played was ‘Matriarch’ off of the ‘Warner Bros Presents…’ album. When he saw us out there, we were singing every word and it was especially cool to hear such an obscure cut kickoff the show. When we went back to say hello after the gig, he immediately said, “Look, it’s the girl who knew all the words to my obscure song!!” We looked at him like he was crazy. Obscure song?!? “Matriarch” was a classic to us! Typical Ronnie humility for sure. My sister and I were loyal Montrose fans since the first album and we bought every one the week it came out. They really were the “American Led Zeppelin” to us growing up, and those first two albums with Sammy Hagar’s debut to the world are sheer classics in the rock pantheon.
Once, he encouraged me to take a series of “portrait photos” with a beloved Gretsch guitar he had, that had his name inscribed on the truss rod cover. I took some shots, and there is an intensity in his eyes that night that typified the guy inside. This was an absolute beast of a guitar player, who created a textbook and tapestry of work that is still being lauded today, yet he was as friendly and engaging a friend as you could ask for. Sure, he was fiercely competitive and had some control issues that lead to the early departure of Sammy Hagar after two albums, but think about his motives. He was merely, yet intensely, striving to maintain his creative vision. I don’t think a man could fight any harder to maintain his true creative vision than Ronnie Montrose did his entire career.
So, the loss this weekend was a heavy one for me and my sister personally. I was also hoping to get to Cabo San Lucas this year to see the original Montrose reunion that was supposed to happen. The Twitter tributes, online postings, and great respect conveyed by Ronnie Montrose’s peers show the enormity of the respect AND the loss. Yet, in the end, we shall all be buoyed by memories of his giant heart and true passion for life and his great contributions to a vast and diverse musical legacy. Via Con Dios, mi amigo…….