Ronnie Montrose Tribute

By Maya Dawn Henderson Pictures by David Dougherty, DJD Photography

Ronnie Montrose Tribute

As recent news of Ronnie Montrose’s death hit the rock community, his Memorial Tribute Concert sadly, ended being the hottest ticket in the Bay Area. The tribute concert was sold out in one day.  Organized by Ronnie’s wife, Leighsa and Ronnie’s promoter Jim Douglas, ‘The Celebration of Ronnie Montrose’s Life’ was held at The ‘Regency Ball Room’ in San Francisco on April 27th, 2012. The honorary tribute to the innovative Bay Area guitarist was very much ~ all about the music. The venue was packed to full capacity with fans, family, friends and fellow band-mates. All of those he inspired, in an effort to celebrate ~ rather than mourn, the life of the legendary musician.

Opening with the sentimental solo, “Prayer For Peace”, Journey guitarist, Neal Schon riveted the sold-out crowd upon first note. With ex-Journey drummer Steve Smith driving the band, Styx bassist Ricky Phillips holding the bottom, and Ronnie’s longtime band-mate, Ed Roth, gluing the band together on keyboards they joined Schon and played ‘Open Fire’, an intricate, progressive instrumental song that Ronnie always played with Steve while back on tour in ’78 with Tony Williams in the 70’s, and with Ed in the 90’s.Ronnie Montrose Tribute The packed house was awestruck. An inexplicable kind of energy took over the venue. They followed up with the classic, ‘Town Without Pity’ and knocked it out of the house.

Not only did Ronnie Montrose inspire millions, amongst other greats, he launched Sammy Hagar’s career as a multi-platinum-selling front man. Ed Roth stated, “Ronnie kept growing throughout his career. From Van Morrison to Edgar Winter to Tony Williams, to Montrose, to Gamma, to his instrumental solo music, both electric and acoustic… He always played every note with conviction. Ronnie was simply a force of nature. Ed went on to say, “Ronnie was his own man, he lived life and played music on his own terms”.

Sammy Hagar, Drummer, Denny Carmassi and bassist Bill “Electric’ Church took the stage with Joe Satriani playing Ronnie’s part on guitar. They played a powerful set that featured Montrose essentials like ‘Space Station No. 5,’ ‘Bad Motor Scooter’ and of course, ‘Rock Candy.Ronnie Montrose Tribute Such a wonderful reminder of what a power-act they were. Although the Gamma and Montrose band-mates played loose-jam style, the sound was excellent, and the performance superbly polished. Old friend, Marc Bonilla filled in tastefully for Ronnie with Gamma. Sammy reminisced and they played a moving version of ‘Connection’ by the Stones, the only tune that may have addressed his untimely death – a song that was covered on Ronnie’s second album. “A lot of memories up here…” Hagar said from the stage. Jeff Keith from Tesla said it best, “We’re here to share the love.” Celebrated by so many of his peers, he was ‘one of the greats’ according to just about all of them, having such an amazing and influential body of work spanning forty years. The Allstar set featured performances by great musicians such Tesla, including Troy Lucketta and Frank Hanon, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer of KISS, old friend and bandmate, Jimmy Paxson of Stevie Nicks, Mr Big’s Eric Martin, and recent Montrose band mates as well. Neil Schon also said he that was very happy to be part of the event and he knows that “Ronnie was smiling, so I felt really good about it.” Jeff Watson of Night Ranger, stood at the front of the stage holding a vintage Goldtop Les Paul.  It was a gift from his friend, Ronnie. Looking up, he said, “I miss Ronnie with all my heart,” causing smiles and tears all around.  It was a warm show of sentimentality. According to Schon, the entire evening of music was recorded and video taped so there may be a release to look forward to. One thing that is definitely confirmed is the forthcoming release of a live DVD from Ronnie Montrose, his first ever concert DVD release, which was recorded only a few weeks before his death. The tribute show was an amazing, yet bittersweet concert that helped many have a little closure. Trailblazer, Ronnie Montrose clearly left his mark on the rock ‘n roll world and I personally will remember his music as part of the soundtrack of my own life, as I’m sure many would agree.

Rest in peace dear Ronnie, we will miss you and love you always.   For more pictures of the event and many of Ronnie, go to