April 11, 2012 at 8:10 AM ET
Guitarist Ronnie Montrose died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a report from the San Mateo County Coroner has revealed.
The suicide ruling contradicts earlier reports that the cause of death was prostate cancer, which Montrose had been suffering from when he died on March 3. Montrose's family did not contradict those reports at the time. The family has now released a statement on Montrose's official Website in reaction to the autopsy report.
"By now, the devastating truth of Ronnie’s death is public knowledge," reads the statement. "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."
In an interview with Guitar Player, Montrose's widow Leighsa explained that her husband had suffered from clinical depression since childhood. "He never thought he was good enough. He always feared he’d 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 didn’t want to carry these burdens for very much longer," she said, adding that Montrose did not leave a suicide note.
The autopsy report, which was released last Friday, also revealed that Montrose had a blood alcohol level of .31 percent.
Montrose got his first break when he was invited to play on Van Morrison's 1971 album, "Tupelo Honey." Additional appearances on recordings by Herbie Hancock, Boz Scaggs, and the Edgar Winter Group soon followed before he formed his own band, Montrose, in 1973. In addition to the guitarist, the band consisted of a then-unknown Sammy Hagar on vocals.
"Ronnie Montrose gave me my first break as a songwriter, as a front man, as a recording artist and as a touring artist, and for that I will always be grateful," Hagar told Rolling Stone.