Best Berating Bluesman

Glenn Schwartz

It's Cleveland's consummate freak show: Every Thursday night, a bombastic blend of blues fans, voyeurs, and neighborhood drunks piles into Major Hoopples bar, and watches in total awe. They're awed first by the talent on display before them: Glenn Schwartz -- the guitarist Jimmy Hendrix once got to play his birthday party -- shredding blues riffs and meandering solos with speed, dexterity, and a precision that leaves even experienced axemen floored. When the intoxicating solos wind down, the crowd sobers up as Schwartz, whose mind and heart were captured by a cultlike Christian group in the 1970s, lambastes the crowd: "Damn your rock and roll," he hollers, as his band takes a beer break. "Damn your booze. Damn your bars. You're all going to hell. But not me." Which might be true: After all, heaven's no heaven without blues, and the blues aren't blues without Schwartz.