Pacific Gas & Electric Guitarist Glenn Schwartz Dies at 77
Former Pacific Gas & Electric guitar virtuoso Glenn Schwartz has died at the age of 78.
After starting his musical journey in the early '60s with bands like the Pilgrims and the Sensations, Schwartz joined up with the James Gang in 1966. His tenure in the group was brief. He does not appear on any of their albums, and left at the end of 1967, soon to be replaced by Joe Walsh.
Schwartz then moved to California and formed Pacific Gas & Electric, who released their debut album, Get It On, in 1968. The band drew on blues and soul as the root of their hard rock sound. Following an appearance at the Miami Pop Festival in December of 1968, the band signed with Columbia Records, who issued their self-titled second LP in 1969.
By this time, the band had rounded out their sound with a horn section, putting them nicely alongside acts like Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago Transit Authority. In the spring of 1970, PG&E released their third album, Are You Ready? Though the album didn't fare as hoped, the title track was issued as a single which climbed to No. 14 on the Billboard charts.
By this time, Schwartz become skeptical and weary of the rock and roll world and left the band. He was far from done with music, however, as he quickly joined up with like-minded souls in the All Saved Freak Band.
Over the years Schwartz kept playing, preaching his gospel while constantly turning heads with his prowess on the guitar. There were many a night at Cleveland night clubs such as Major Hooples, where he played every Thursday night for over 20 years, where he would start the evening with some amazing playing before quickly turning the stage into a pulpit, preaching to the crowd and often berating members of the audience for not living a pure lifestyle.
At Hooples, anything could happen, like the time Joe Walsh, Dale Peters and Jimmy Fox paid Glenn a visit that turned into a full on James Gang jam session, or the time David Byrne found himself there following a Talking Heads show, making the comment, "He may have lost his mind, but his fingers are firing on all cylinders...only in Cleveland!" In 2016, Schwartz joined Joe Walsh and Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys in live performance, including a stop at Coachella.
Last year, Smog Veil Records issued a previously unreleased recording of the Schwartz-Fox Blues Crusade, a short lived configuration featuring Schwartz and the James Gang's Jim Fox, dating back to 1967.
Despite his tendencies for what one could call savage preaching, Schwartz was a gentle soul whose love for playing guitar was second only to his love for Christ. His final performance was at a friend's 70th birthday party on September 30, 2018 at the Beachland Ballroom in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. "When the music came through he tapped into a pure source....it was his shame and his strength," stated friend and Beachland owner Cindy Barber. "May you join the shining light you always sought Glenn."