Ronnie Montrose death a suicide, coroner reports

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Hard rock guitarist Ronnie Montrose died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on March 3, according to a report released last Friday by the San Mateo County Coroner’s office. Although he was battling prostate cancer, he did not succumb to that illness, as was previously reported on Pop & Hiss and other sites.

Montrose, 64, was a well-known guitarist who recorded with Van Morrison, Boz Scaggs and the Edgar Winter Group before forming his own band, Montrose, with singer Sammy Hagar.

Anticipating the release of the coroner’s report, Montrose’s wife and manager, Leighsa Montrose, gave a revealing interview to Guitar Player in which she detailed the final moments of the guitarist’s life, including an exchange of text messages between the two in which he told his wife that, “I have the .38 in my hand and am ready to go.”

Concerned, Leighsa finally asked him to come down to her design studio, where she was working, and he texted back, “I can’t. I’ve got the gun to my head.”


She rushed back to their home in Millbrae, Calif., and according to the Guitar Player story, found him in a recliner in the living room with a .38 revolver in his hand and his cellphone at his feet. Leighsa Montrose reported that the musician had struggled throughout his life with clinical depression and with alcohol.

The coroner’s findings also reported a blood alcohol level of .31% at the time of death, well past the legal limit in the state of California.

The Montrose Family released a statement on the Ronnie Monstrose website yesterday:

“By now, the devastating truth of Ronnie’s 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 Ronnie’s 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.”

For a Pop & Hiss remembrance by his former bandmate Hagar, who was greatly influenced by Ronnie Montrose’s high-energy guitar playing and stage presence, read here.


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- Dean Kuipers