Monday, March 05, 2012

Ronnie Montrose

I discovered Van Morrison through Tupelo Honey. I heard of him before, but really started paying attention with Wild Night. That was the very first song by him that made me stand up and go..."oh yeah."

The guitar player was Ronnie Montrose.

In fact, if you listen closely to that riff, it almost has an early "Free Ride" thing going on. Tupelo Honey made me go back and find Moondance and my love affair with Van was on.
The next year, this monster of a song comes on the radio with all this weird synthesizer stuff and man, it does NOT sound like any other song I've ever heard. Edgar Winter?
"Frankenstein" made me go out and buy that album, (you should have seen the look on my dad's face when he saw the cover.) Wow, the guitar player is Ronnie Montrose. Ronnie shined on the record, from "We Still Had A Real Good Time" To "Round and Round". Who can forget the wonderful riff of "Free Ride"? If there was ever a song made for spring, it's that one.

I was waiting for the next Edgar Winter album when a friend of mine come over to my house with an 8 track of Ronnie's new project  "Montrose". It seemed Ronnie was at it again, and this time he traded that lovely spring filled riff with an effing sledge hammer. "Montrose" remained in my 8 track player until, literally, the tape head wore through the tape and it disintegrated. I can remember having the "Montrose" tape in the 8 track and having a matchbook wedged in between the tape and the player just so it could play.

I have a Japanese import of "Open Fire" that I paid twenty bucks for "Magdelena" served as my show open for awhile in the early radio days and there are 9 Gamma songs on planetradio. To say I was a fan would be an under statement. I thought Gamma was a totally over looked band in the early 80s. Listen to "Voyager", "Dirty City" or "Fight To The Finish". You listen now and it doesn't sound dated. It still sound like fresh, hook laden, well played rock and roll.

I talked to Ronnie twice in my career. Once after a Gamma release in the studio. It is always nice to find out the person you've dug for so long is a decent guy and Ronnie was. He seemed appreciative.

The next (and last) time I chatted with him was right after a soundcheck at the Westport Playhouse in the late 80's when he opened for Robin Trower. It was odd, because at the time, I think Davey Pattison sang for both Montrose AND Trower that night.

The Westport Playhouse was a great place to play. It was wierd, however, because the stage rotated through the show. This creates a bit of a sticky wicket for the sound man who has to balance out the sound throughout the whole venue. He has to make some adjustments to the volume of the amps as not to have the whole thing sound like a freight train to the people on the opposite side of where the front of the stage is.
Right after a sound check, when Ronnie and I were finishing our interview, the sound man at the Playhouse said to Ronnie, "please, whatever you do, do NOT mess with the volume on your amp. I have it set perfectly, for a great sounding show. So, please don't turn it up or down."
"OK, no problem" Ronnie said.

Later, I got in front of a sold out show and after taking the cue from the band...I do my thing...
"Hey, I'm Randy from KSHE thanks for coming, how about a great, warm welcome for a St. Louis favorite...Ronnie Montrose!!!"

I look behind me as Ronnie walks over to his amps and turns them all the way up. I can hear the sound man over the screaming crowd...."NO! NO!".

Too late.

Freight train would be kind. You couldn't hear anything but the guitar. I could see the people putting their hands over their ears, it was painful.
I don't know about you, but I would have a real hard time telling Ronnie Montrose would to do or how to sound.
How blessed am I that this clown grew up to meet one of his guitar heroes. Twice. I am so glad I knew his story. I think guys like Ronnie appreciate it when they are interviewed by a fan. He seemed to anyway.

Here are a couple of faves...



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