Sammy Hagar says that he “doesn’t regret anything” about his relationship with late MONTROSE legend Ronnie Montrose, explaining that he tried desperately to be friends with the guitarist before Ronnie took his own life on March 3, 2012.
Sammy and Ronnie co-founded MONTROSE in the early 1970s, releasing a self-titled album in 1973 and “Paper Money” the following year. Hagar left the band shortly thereafter to pursue a solo career, which eventually included a stint as the frontman for VAN HALEN and his more recent gigs with supergroups CHICKENFOOT and THE CIRCLE.
Speaking to a group of journalists at last weekend’s Monster Energy Carolina Rebellion, which took place May 2-3 at Rock City Campgrounds at Charlotte Motor Speedway just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, Hagar recalled the day of Ronnie‘s passing. He said (see video below): “It was tough, man. When I got that call, it was devastating, because I just started talking to him… Me and him started talking again recently, and he was gonna come to Cabo [San Lucas, Mexico] for my birthday that year and play with the original MONTROSE. I said to him, quote-unquote, on the phone, ‘Ronnie…’ He was saying, ‘I don’t know, Hagar…’ He was always accusing me of trying to do stuff for my own good. Like, ‘What do you want from me?’ I’m, like, ‘I don’t need anything from you, Ronnie. Trust me. I wanna thank you. I wanna do something for you.’ And he was a hard guy to get along with. So he told me, ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’ ‘Cause he said, ‘Yeah, while we’re all still alive’ — [bassist] Bill Church, [drummer] Denny Carmassi, Sammy and Ronnie. Look, I’ve got goosebumps [talking about this]. ‘While we’re all still alive.’ And I said, ‘Great!’ And a month later, I get the phone call: ‘My God, Ronnie just shot himself in the head.’ Unbelievable!”
He continued: “I don’t regret anything except… ‘Cause I tried and I tried and I tried to be friends with him — not to put MONTROSE back together, but to be friends and to hang out and to have him come to my birthday bash, and have him come out on the road with me, which we did; many times Ronnie came out and played with us for the encore and I’d do four MONTROSE tunes. I’d pay him more money than he’d normally get. I loved the guy, but he was hard to get along with. He obviously couldn’t get along with himself. I mean, you don’t do that. How can a guy do that? I don’t even know how someone could do that.”
In a 2012 interview with Guitar Player magazine, Ronnie‘s wife/manager Leighsa Montrose said that she felt Ronnie 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,” she said. “This is why he always drove himself so hard. 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.”
Hagar‘s current band, THE CIRCLE, also includes former VAN HALEN bassist Michael Anthony, drummer Jason Bonham and guitarist Vic Johnson.