How Ronnie Montrose Stepped Into the Spotlight on ‘Montrose’
In November of 1973, Montrose released their self-titled debut album, which overcame a slow sales start to become one of the more influential and beloved albums in hard rock history.
The band was named after guitarist Ronnie Montrose, who had previously played on albums by Van Morrison and the Edgar Winter Group. It also marked the recorded debut of singer Sammy Hagar, who would go on to worldwide fame as a solo act and singer for Van Halen.
Montrose is a near-flawless eight-song collection of memorable riffs, impressively assured songwriting and strong vocal performances, featuring highlights such as "Rock the Nation," "Space Station #5" and "Bad Motor Scooter." The album clearly had an impact on Hagar's future Van Halen bandmates, who covered its closing track "Make It Last" during their early club days, then hired the same producer (Ted Templeman) and engineer (Donn Landee) to work on their own debut album.
After all these years, Hagar still looks back very fondly on Montrose, which also featured bassist Bill Church and drummer Danny Carmassi. "Yes, I do feel a lot of stuff for that album," he told Ultimate Classic Rock. "And when I hear something like 'Rock Candy' or 'Make It Last,' you know, God, I just sound like this young kid. I just can't believe that I'm as old as I am when I hear it, because I don't feel any different."
Hagar and Montrose parted ways acrimoniously in 1975. Church was a member of Hagar's solo band from 1976 right up till the time the singer joined Van Halen in 1985. Montrose continued experimenting with rock, fusion and other genres on Montrose, Gamma and solo records. All four original members of Montrose reunited for the song "Leaving the Warmth of the Womb" on Hagar's 1997 post-Van Halen solo album Marching to Mars.
Montrose died in March of 2012, and the following month Hagar, Carmassi and Church were joined by an all-star lineup including Joe Satriani, Neal Schon and others at a special tribute concert for the guitarist that was released on home video.
Hagar was also joined by his former bandmates for mini-Montrose sets during his Four Decades of Rock tour. As he proudly notes, "I don't quite sound the same, but I can still hit the notes, you know?"