Skip to comments.Ronnie Montrose’s Death Caused By Self-Inflicted Gunshot
Posted on 04/10/2012 7:57:52 PM PDT by My Favorite Headache
Ronnie Montroses Death Caused By Self-Inflicted Gunshot by: Dave Swanson 5 hours ago
It has been confirmed that Ronnie Montroses death last month was not directly due to his long battle with cancer. The San Mateo County Coroners Office reports the guitarist instead died from suicide in the form of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
According to family friend Michael Molenda, in a sad and touching article on GuitarPlayer.com, the Montrose family knew the findings would be made public soon. So they posted a statement on the guitarists website and official Facebook page, which reads in part:
By now, the devastating truth of Ronnies death is public knowledge. We hope you can understand why we wanted to keep this news a private family matter for as long as possible. We can only hope that you will choose to celebrate Ronnies life, and what his music meant to you, rather than mourn his passing. Ronnie would have wanted it that way.
Montrose apparently suffered from clinical depression for much of his life. His wife and manager, Leighsa Montrose, explained that he had a very difficult childhood, which caused him to have extremely deep and damaging feelings of inadequacy, this is why he always drove himself so hard.
Leighsa goes on to detail her husbands last days on earth, which conclude with him saying good-bye to her in a series of heartbreaking text messages. To her immense credit, she seems to have found peace in his passing:
I looked at his peaceful and calm face, and I said to him, Youve shown me I have no choice in this matter I told him I loved him. I accepted what had happened. And then I sat calmly on the couch and called the police department.
By her account, despite all his success and acclaim, Montrose never thought he was good enough. He always feared hed be exposed as a fraud. So he was exacting in his self-criticism, and the expectations he put upon himself were tremendous. Now I see that perhaps he didnt want to carry these burdens for very much longer.
On March 3, 2012, he sought inner peace by taking his own life. A report by the San Mateo County Coroners Office, released on April 6, confirms the guitarist died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Anticipating the coroners findings would soon be made public, the Montrose family asked me to write this article. I was a long-time friend and colleague, and the family wanted the painful story to be told by a member of the Bay Area media that Montrose himself knew and trusted.
The family also posted the following statement on ronniemontrose.com:
By now, the devastating truth of Ronnies death is public knowledge. We hope you can understand why we wanted to keep this news a private family matter for as long as possible. We can only hope that you will choose to celebrate Ronnies life, and what his music meant to you, rather than mourn his passing. Ronnie would have wanted it that way. He loved being a guitarist, a composer, a producer, and a creator of magic. He fully understood his gifts, and yet he constantly pushed himself to evolve, improve, and make better music. He did this for himself, and he did this for you, because he adored and appreciated his fans. Please keep his energy, his joy, and his love in your hearts.
Montrose did not leave a suicide note, but his wife/manager Leighsa Montrose feels he was probably always planning for an exit.
Ronnie had a very difficult childhood, which caused him to have extremely deep and damaging feelings of inadequacy, said Leighsa. This is why he always drove himself so hard. He never thought he was good enough. He always feared hed be exposed as a fraud. So he was exacting in his self criticism, and the expectations he put upon himself were tremendous. Now I see that perhaps he didnt want to carry these burdens for very much longer.
The torment of self-doubt likely contributed to Montroses long-term alcoholism. The toxicology report showed his blood-alcohol level at 0.31% when he diedalmost four times the legal limit in California. No evidence of other drugs was found in his system.
I knew I had married an alcoholic, but Ronnie was never anything but loving, said Leighsa. He could be curmudgeonly and cranky, but he was never angry or abusive to me in any way. He definitely had a reputation for his bad temper and controlling personality when he was younger, but hed always say that I got the best version of himself, and we were nearly inseparable. We ate every meal together. I went to every show he played.
Famously mercurial, Montrose always seemed to tank a project just when things were getting good. Factor out the depression, and Montroses frequent conceptual and stylistic shifts seem like the actions of a true artist following his creative muse no matter what the business ramifications might be. But, knowing what Montrose was suffering through every day of his life, a different perspective arisesone of a man in constant evolution and reevaluation because he always felt he had to do much, much better.
And yet, Montrose was thrilled that 2012 was starting off on an exponential curve. The two-year break from the guitar he took between 2007 and 2009 in order to heal from the daily, painful effects of cancerwhen his loyal bulldog, Lola, was constantly at his side, dropping him down to a good sleep vibedid not permanently effect his technique. He had been touring regularly since late 2009, performing solo compositions, acoustic pieces, Montrose songs, and some Gamma material. By 2011, he was truly on fire as a player. Happily, he was captured on video just this past January 27, and the release of his one-and-only DVD, Ronnie Montrose Live at the Uptown, was one of the many joys he was anticipating in 2012. There were also more tour dates stacking up, and a Montrose reunioncelebrating Sammy Hagars birthdayslated for October.
He was so looking forward to all the possibilities before him, said Leighsa.
But the deaths of his uncle and his beloved bulldog within three weeks of each other in January 2012 (the week before, and the week after the filming of his live DVD), put Montrose in a reflective state, and likely exacerbated his ongoing depression.
On March 2, Montrose had been drinking heavily, but he got up the next day at 8 am and made breakfast for Leighsa and her mother (who resided at the Montrose home), which was his typical routine. At 10:03 am, Montrose texted Leighsa, asking if she wanted him to bring lunch down to her design studio. As she was on a deadline, and had already arranged to meet him at home for lunch, she declined his sweet offer.
The mood abruptly changed when Montrose texted he was glad Leighsa had figured it out, found the hooch, and stopped him from going down the dark path. At 11:01 am, he added, I have the .38 in my hand and am ready to go.
Ronnie always had a dark and bizarre sense of humor, said Leighsa. And, at this point, I truly thought he was speaking in metaphors.
But the next textIm so sorry. Still have the gun in my hand. Im going on that voyage. I love you beyond measureworried her, and she immediately called him and asked that he come to her studio. He agreed, saying he would be right down.
After about four minutes, he wasnt here, and I told my mother, Weve got to go homesomething is wrong, said Leighsa. When I turned to look at my phone, I saw the last text from him. I didnt hear it come in. It said, I cant. Ive got the gun to my head.
They rushed home, but it was too late. Montrose was sitting in his favorite recliner in his living room, an unregistered Smith & Wesson Model 38 Special CTG Airweight revolver in his hand, and his cell phone at his feet.
I looked at his peaceful and calm face, and I said to him, Youve shown me I have no choice in this matter, said Leighsa. I told him I loved him. I accepted what had happened. And then I sat calmly on the couch and called the Brisbane Police Department.
Ronnie Montrose was pronounced dead by medics from Brisbane Fire Engine #81 at noon.
My sense of Ronnie as the persistent and decisive adventureras well as all his music about space, flight, and travelspeaks volumes about his choice and his action, reflected Leighsa. Seeing beyond was always what he did best. He was always breaking new ground, following his heart, his intuition, his star. And for reasons we may never fully understand, he made a choice to lift off.
If you were observant enough, you could catch him at every show noodling a bit of the melody to Led Zeppelins In My Time of Dying. The song contained the lyrics, Well, well, well, so I can die easy. Well, well, well, so I can die easy.
That’s so sad. Great guitarist, always liked his stuff since my teen years.
Dammit, Ronnie...saw you and Ritchie Blackmore on the same stage back in the late 70’s when you were fronting Gamma. Two masters of the guitar in the same night...I’ll never forget it. RIP, Ronnie.
Reminds me a bit of Brad Delp, the lead singer of Boston who committed suicide. People with difficult childhoods seem to go into entertainment to get approval from a large number of people.
Did he play the opening riff on Edgar Winter’s Free Ride?
Wow. I have never been without a copy of the first Montrose album since it was released. RIP Mr. Montrose.
Written when he fronted Gamma ~ Voyager
Our childhood does stay with us. You can never get away from it. For some it's a good presence and, for others, a painful one. Rest in peace.
Ronnie’s music was very influential to me when I got going in earnest. I was saddened by the news of his death and that sadness deepened by this latest news.
RIP my friend.
Difference was Delp didn’t have cancer...Delp’s death still shakes me to the core to this day...how he killed himself after literally appearing the night before doing a Beatles tribute show and singing Happy Birthday laughing and smiling and having a great time only to go home and 36 hrs later he turns on a coal grill in his bathroom and seals the door...yet left notes all over the house warning people to be careful of the fumes so they wouldn’t get hurt.
With Brad it was his pain from what Scholz was doing to him by not letting his friends and old members perform in Boston again...he hated hurting his friends and being caught in the middle of it. He really was the nicest guy in music.
Ronnie was just one of those tortured souls his entire life...even Sammy Hagar pointed that out in his book “Red”. Sammy tried so hard to get Ronnie back to normal but could never do it...the guy was just too depressed or dealt with inner demons from childhood he just couldn’t kick.
Hagar to this day says the first Montrose record is the best thing he ever did.
I wish he hadn't but I think I understand why he did. Clinical depression eats away at you. If it's the price you pay for genius, it's a cruel price. RIP.
Paper Money - "Connection"
Sounds like a great song. Brilliant in fact. Who’s Paper Money? Very talented to steal it from the Rolling Stones.
I had absolutely no idea about his death. So many memories. I wore out the ‘Montrose’ debut album...He introduced us to Sammy Hagar as well.
The best song on the album by far is Space Station #5 Just wow!
RIP and Thanks for great music.
That entire album rocked! “Make it Last”....
Yep it was and is true ROCK AND ROLL! I had the album and the 8 track lol. (telling on my age). Lived in a very small town (1500) and tooled around in a super beetle, sunroof open and blaring Montrose, Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper (who put out some kick butt music too), Kiss all great and true Rock and Roll.
The only group that comes to mind that is close these days imo is Nickelback (sp) but don’t listen to much anymore.
Those were the days though weren’t they? Great music-true freedom. Thx for the link.
PS..more truth and wisdom in that song than they probably realized.
‘Make it Last’
Make it Last
Well, I remember when I was seventeen,
My father told me, “Pick your dreams.”
He said life ain’t easy as it seems.
When you get older you’ll see what I mean.
At the time, I wanted to be twenty-one
It seemed the right age for havin’ fun.
But when I got there I was still too young-
And twenty-five seemed to be the one.
But now I live my life from day to day
‘Cuz I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Whether I’m twelve or whether I’m sixty-four
I spend my time like there ain’t gonna be no more.
You know that sweet girl you’ve been chasin’ round
She got you hooked ‘long as she keeps you down.
Well, I know what happens once she comes around
It won’t be long and you’ll be back on the town.
Lord, yes! Alright!
Things between, they suit you right.
But once you get them it seems like they’re all alike.
So make it last as long as you can
It’s so much easier when you understand.
Whenever Richard Cory went down town, We people on the pavement looked at him: He was a gentleman from sole to crown, Clean favored and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed, And he was always human when he talked; But still he fluttered pulses when he said, 'Good Morning' and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich-yes, richer than a king- And admirably schooled in every grace: In fine, we thought that he was everything To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light, And went without the meat, and cursed the bread: And Richard Cory, one calm summer night, Went home and put a bullet through his head.
So many people in need of Jesus. It truly is up to us who know Him to share His love and hope with everyone. We never know how desperate someone who seems OK is inside of themselves. This is so very, very sad.
Do you remember this one?
Album: Paper Money (another good one)
I put up this thread less than two weeks ago upon finally hearing of Ronnie’s passing:
I find this all supremely sad. His wife’s reaction, poignant as it may seem, is just silly to me. The man had talent in abundance, yet he took what is only God’s to take: his own life. That is NEVER the answer. We are granted this life by God Himself for a reason or reasons; who are WE to second-guess or short-circuit His plan for our lives?
It’s a kind of arrogance that I’ll never understand. People can talk to me all day long about “clinical depression” (whatever the hell that really is; we all have our demons to wrestle and our challenges in this world). You have to suck it up, hand it over to God, and move on.
I’ve known many, many musicians in my life, being a rock/blues guitarist of over 40 years myself. There is a very strong tendency among guitarists, especially, to constantly compare themselves to others and find themselves wanting. Just when you think you’re getting pretty good, along comes an Eddie Van Halen, or Eric Johnson, or Steve Vai, or Hendrix, or the best in my opinion....Gary Moore. There’s always some hot rod out there who can mop the floor with you. I’ve seen phenomenal guitarists give it up; hang up the instrument because “I’ll never be as good as so-and-so”.
My response is always “So what? Who cares??? Who defines which style or tone or skill set is ‘better’ than another’s?”
You identify, over a long period of time usually, who and what you are as a musician. Many things define this: your upbringing, your MUSICAL upbringing, your spirit, your heart, your ears, your fingers.....but it really is mostly about how much of your heart you pour into your playing.
I know a guy here in Raleigh who is nothing short of breathtakingly talented on the guitar. He is lead guitarist of the top Van Halen tribute band in the country, bar none. There’s nothing ol’ Eddie has ever played that this guy can’t tear up. I sit by him and watch him play and I just laugh; it’s a pure joy to see and hear such skill.
Yet he is SO hard on himself. He gushes over MY playing (I’m a hack compared to him, technically speaking). He doesn’t feel he’s “good enough”.
These feelings of inadequacy can drive people to extremes when they don’t put such things into the proper context in life, in this world.
We are here to serve God; to serve His Son, out Lord and Savior. Everything we do should be to glorify Him in some way. No less than Johann Sebastian Bach put it best about 300 years ago:
The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.
I just feel sad that Ronnie never understood this. He’d still be alive, a husband, an innovator, a musician doing what he loved best.....and he would never have taken the ultimate gift, life, and tossed it aside by his own hand.
Great stuff...I’ve been enjoying that album for years and years...never get tired of it...
Paper Money was Montrose’s second album. Sammy Hagar did the vocals and I always thought their treatment of ‘Connection’ had more behind it than the original. Maybe it was Sammy’s vocals. Anyway, the words kind of rang true to me now after hearing of RM’s battle with cancer.