Jimmy Fox wanted a certain type of guitarist to anchor the James Gang in 1966. He didn’t think that axman even existed — until he met Glenn Schwartz, who died Nov. 2 at age 78. “Glenn was the real deal,” Fox says. Schwartz’s evocative, blues-based playing was spiritual and fluid, yet primal and aggressive. After his James Gang stint, Schwartz found success in California with Pacific Gas & Electric. A deeply religious man, Schwartz later preached and played at Hoopples and the Beachland Tavern with his bassist brother, Gene. In recent years, he recorded with Dan Auerbach and jammed with Joe Walsh, his James Gang replacement, at Coachella in 2016. We asked three Cleveland music figures to reflect on Schwartz’s influence, humanity and musicianship.
Dan Auerbach, guitarist and vocalist, The Black Keys
“Glenn was my biggest rock ‘n’ roll inspiration. I saw him at Hoopples when I was 18 and things were never the same for me. There would be no Black Keys without Glenn Schwartz, that’s for sure. I really miss him. He was a sweet man; he loved the Lord and loved music so much. I really respected his conviction.”
Cindy Barber, co-owner, Beachland Ballroom & Tavern
“When I moved to his old stomping grounds in North Collinwood in the mid-’80s, he was living in his car in the Dave’s Supermarket parking lot by my house. Glenn would just sit in the car and practice runs on his guitar. He could pull off the most interesting guitar solos because he could do long seamless runs with his left hand. His intensity and creative choices on the guitar were unique.”
Ray Flanagan, guitarist and vocalist, Ray Flanagan & The Authorities
“Glenn Schwartz’s guitar playing was urgent, physical and confrontational. He was trying to tell you something, and you had no choice but to pay attention. He was influential because of his arguably futuristic skill when he first started coming around. And beyond that, he had the gift to make anyone who witnessed him feel. Glenn had the real blues coming through his hands. I think about him often when I play.”