Ronnie Montrose, the guitarist whose namesake hard rock group, Montrose, rose to prominence in the 1970s and helped launch the career of Sammy Hagar, died yesterday (March 3) of prostate cancer, Rolling Stone reports. He was 64.

A native of Denver, Montrose made his name as a sideman for Van Morrison, playing on the singer's 1971 'Tupelo Honey' album. He went on to record with numerous artists -- everyone from Herbie Hancock to the Edgar Winter Group -- before forming Montrose in 1973.

With Hagar on vocals, the foursome recorded such well-known tunes as 'Bad Motor Scooter' and 'Space Station #5,' later covered by Iron Maiden. Van Halen, the group Hagar would lead in the '80s, following the departure of original frontman David Lee Roth, were known to play the Montrose songs 'Rock Candy' and 'Make It Last' in their pre-fame days.

From Hagar's departure onward, Montrose released albums as Montrose and Gamma -- the group he formed in the early '80s -- as well as under his own name.

"A few months ago, we held a surprise party for Ronnie Montrose's 64th birthday," read a statement said on the guitarist's website. "He gave an impromptu speech, and told us that after a long life, filled with joy and hardship, he didn't take any of our love for granted. He passed today. He'd battled cancer, and staved off old age for long enough. And true to form, he chose his own exit the way he chose his own life. We miss him already, but we're glad to have shared with him while we could."

More From Noisecreep