Sammy Hagar Reflects on the Life and Legacy of Ronnie Montrose
A few days after the loss of legendary guitarist Ronnie Montrose, his friend and former bandmate Sammy Hagar has opened up in an article in Rolling Stone about hearing the axeman play for the first time, starting a band with him, and the everlasting impact that Ronnie leaves behind both in the form of his music and his spirit.
In the article, Hagar sets the scene for the first time he saw Ronnie Montrose play live with the Edgar Winter Group. He talks about watching him play and thinking, “I’m going to be like that guy. I’m going to play guitar like that and I’m going to sing like … the way I sing.”
That set the ball in motion for what would become the band Montrose. Hagar showed up on Ronnie’s front door with his Les Paul and a notebook and said, “I’m Sammy Hagar. I heard you’re looking for a singer.” The rest as they say is history and Montrose would go on to record their iconic debut release followed by ‘Paper Money’ before Montrose kicked Hagar out of the band due to ‘artistic differences.’
Hagar called Montrose a changeling, explaining, “We made one of the greatest hard rock/heavy metal albums of all time with that first Montrose album, and then he didn’t want to do that anymore.” The two would go their separate ways but remain friends. Hagar of course ended up playing with Van Halen, a band heavily influenced by the style of Ronnie Montrose.
Hagar admits he spoke to Montrose just a few weeks ago as they were trying to finalize a Montrose reunion in Cabo for Hagar’s birthday. Hagar recounts the phone call, “I said to Ronnie, ‘Come on, man. We’re all getting old. Let’s do this again while we can.’ And he was in, we were all in.” Hagar continued, “On my 65th, on October 13th, I was planning on coming out with Montrose, doing the whole first album, then going in with my other band, and then bringing Chickenfoot out. I was going to try to [cover] my whole four decades for the fans that night, without nobody knowing. And Ronnie was in. It’s crazy.”
Hagar talks about playing back messages Montrose left on his answering machine, and how their reunion will never come to fruition, saying, “It’s f—ed up that those songs will never be played by those four members again. Songs can go forever, but we can’t.”
Hagar hopes that Montrose will be remembered as the pioneer of heavy/hard rock music that he was and one of the great hard rock players of his time. But most of all, according to Hagar, “If you’re going to remember him for anything, put on that first Montrose record.”
Read Sammy Hagar’s entire Rolling Stone tribute to Ronnie Montrose here.