“Cuyahoga River Way” doesn’t have quite the same ring as “Rocky Mountain Way,” but some of northeast Ohio’s most famous rock heroes met up (and celebrated another, lesser known one) in Los Angeles Tuesday night, when the Black Keys were joined on stage at the Forum by Joe Walsh.
The Cleveland-Akron summit encompassed two songs about two-thirds of the way through the duo’s show, with tandem guitar leads ensuing. The sellout arena crowd particularly took to Walsh’s fiery addition on the familiar “She’s Long Gone,” a song from the breakout album “Brothers” that the Black Keys have been performing on tour for nearly a decade now.
But perhaps the bigger treat for some geeks was a song the duo has apparently never performed publicly before: a cover of the song “Water Street,” by the late Cleveland-area rocker Glenn Schwartz. Although it wasn’t explicitly mentioned, Schwartz was Walsh’s predecessor in the James Gang in the late ’60s.
Auerbach is a megafan. Telling the Forum audience about first encountering Schwartz at a Cleveland club show when he was a teenager, Auerbach said, “You guys may not know him, but he was really important to me, and he blew my f—ing mind when I was 16. And this was Glenn’s guitar right here, and this was the guitar he was playing that night. Little did I know, when Joe was at an impressionable age, he walked into a bar and he saw Glenn Schwartz and it blew his mind and it made him want to play rock ‘n’ roll music, just like it made me. So in honor of our good friend Glenn Schwartz, we’re gonna play one of his songs, all right?”
Variety can exclusive reveal that an album Auerbach, Walsh and Schwartz recorded together back in 2016 will finally be coming out in 2020, on Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound label.
Auerbach befriended the late cofounder of the James Gang — and his successor, Walsh, re-friended him — before Schwartz died in November of 2018 at age 78. The three of them played a gig together at a Nashville honky-tonk in 2016, then followed it with a jam at the Coachella Festival during an appearance there by Auerbach’s other band, the Arcs. It was around that same time the three of them went into a recording studio, the results of which will finally be heard next year.
After leaving the James Gang, Schwartz hooked up in L.A. with Pacific Gas & Electric, which in 1970 had a top 20 hit with “Are You Ready?” He soon left secular music behind, with his evangelical zeal leading him to form one of the seminal Christian rock groups, the All Saved Freak Band — a group that appealed to young religious devotees looking for heavy guitar music in the mid-’70s, but obscure now even to most students of religious pop. The group’s 1970s catalog was just re-released on vinyl and CD, with the Light in the Attic specialty catalog label distributing.
After the All Saved Freak Band split up, Schwartz returned to playing Cleveland clubs, where he would preach between songs, as he did even in the couple of gigs he shared with Auerbach and Walsh.
“Glenn was my biggest rock ‘n’ roll inspiration,” Auerbach told Cleveland magazine upon Schwartz’s death last year. “I saw him at Hooples 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.”