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Although more exploratory and ambitious than his eponymous first band, incendiary guitar genius Ronnie Montrose's second group, Gamma, forever dwelt in the shadow of the landmark Montrose debut. In the early '70s, Ronnie Montrose left Colorado for California, and became known for his session work with Van Morrison and Boz Scaggs. He then rose to fame as Edgar Winter's axeman on the legendary They Only Come Out at Night. Wanting to call his own shots, Ronnie Montrose turned down an invitation from Mott the Hoople and brought together Montrose. The self-titled debut remains a metal masterpiece, featuring a young Sammy Hagar belting out sizzlers like "Bad Motor Scooter," "Space Station No. 5," and "Rock the Nation." Hardly an overnight success,Montrose subtly set a standard that many hard rock bands, particularly Van Halen, would strive to achieve. But Hagar was fired after the disjointed sophomore effort, Paper Money, and the band slowly disintegrated while still squeezing out two more meandering LPs. Open Fire was credited solely to Ronnie Montrose, and the guitarist became a hired gun again (playing the "agony of defeat" solo in the Wide World of Sports theme). He then formed Gamma in 1979, reuniting with latter-Montrose personnel Jim Alcivar (keyboards) and pre-Night Ranger Alan Fitzgerald (bass), plus Davey Pattison on vocals and Skip Gillette on drums. Numerous lineup changes began immediately with the first record, the imaginatively titled Gamma 1, as another old bandmate, Denny Carmassi, replaced Gillette and Glenn Letsch took over bass duties. "Voyager" off Gamma 2 made some waves, and the band toured America and Europe. Mitchell Froom (late of Bruzer) replaced Alcivar for the keyboard-focused Gamma 3, another intriguing record, with "No Destination" and especially "Right the First Time" garnering some FM airtime. Ronnie Montrose abruptly ditched the band mid-tour with Foreigner. Fed up with label pressures, the guitarist kept a low profile, periodically recorded and produced, and he briefly reunited the original Montrose. His life ended with a self-inflicted gun shot in 2012. Carmassi joined Heart in time for the Wilson sisters' '80s revival, and also drummed for Coverdale/Page. ~ Whitney Z. Gomes



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