The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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August 4, 2013

Guitar Man

Musician picks out a living in small town

SHARON — Stochelo Rosenberg is not a household name even among many serious guitarists, but he’s renowned enough in gypsy music circles that Max Schang traveled to Montreal to see one of his few North American appearances.

With the help of a friend, Schang was able to attend Rosenberg’s soundcheck before the concert and, when Rosenberg was confronted with music charts for a couple of songs to accompany a singer, Schang ended up on stage leading one of his heroes through the charts.

“Gypsy jazz guys do everything by ear,” Schang explained, making music notation meaningless to the Dutch guitarist.

“I’m helping Stochelo through the chart,” Schang said, who tells the story with a sense of amazement. “I thought to myself, ‘Is this the last thing I thought I would be doing - helping this master get through this chart?’”

Schang’s good fortune at working with a hero is indicative of the luck he said he has had throughout his career.

Like Rosenberg, Schang, 60, of Sharon, is not a household name, but that hasn’t kept him from making a living from music and music-related activities for just about all of his adult life.

“The only time I worked a regular job in my life was before I went to Spain (to study guitar) when I was 19,” Schang said. “I worked at the Golden Dawn in Greenville.”

As a guitarist, he has sat in with notable bluesmen such as Eddie Shaw, Magic Slim and Homesick James, toured Europe and become a notable at some of the choice Chicago blues clubs.

Aside from his performing - which includes writing songs and recording them - he also has taught guitar to legions of would-be six-string wizards.

He’s done pretty much everything he’s wanted to do as a musician, and he hasn’t had to live in New York, Chicago, Nashville, Los Angeles or any of the other music meccas.

Sticking to Sharon because of family, friends, the cost of living, and the proximity to Cleveland and Pittsburgh, he became a big fish in a small pond, and embraced that lifestyle.

“If I would move to Chicago, I would be just another guy,” he said. “If I lived in the middle of Montana, I would probably say, ‘See ya.’”

“Obviously, I’m not a household name,” he said. “I’ve done the things I’ve wanted to do. I never wanted to be Justin Bieber.”

Pop stars like Bieber are as much image as talent and it takes a lot of work to cultivate an image. That was never Schang’s thing.

“I was too busy working on music to get out there and be a car salesman,” said Schang, who inherited the distinguished French facial outline of his grandfather, who was from Alsace.

However, the digital revolution of Myspace and Facebook has opened up new opportunities for him, Schang said. People who are interested in his music can find him without the interference of a record company.

“It truly has become a global village,” he said. “(Recently,) I put up a video clip of me playing a Paul McCartney tune and I got several people from Europe write and say, ‘Hey, nice arrangement.’”

And, when he sells a compact disc, he gets to keep the proceeds. There’s no record company to pay back or agent to siphon off a percentage.

“In the old days, if you didn’t get signed to Columbia, it didn’t happen,” he said.

Schang’s latest album is the Max Schang Band’s “Live at Sprague’s,” full of “good time, party, rompin’-stompin’ kind of stuff,” he said.

It followed “Back Up Again,” an album that has consistently made it to independent radio play lists, with some commercial radio carryover.

“It’s done very well,” he said.

Best known for his blues-rock playing, Schang’s musical interests are much more diverse. He is classically trained, put in time with the noted power pop band Blue Ash, embraces gypsy jazz - see his compact disc “Time Away” - and adores the “crazy abandonment” of a good feedback binge.

In a recent week, he could be seen playing baroque music by Antonio Vivaldi on one night, and “Voodoo Chile,” a Jimi Hendrix signature jam, on another.

Upcoming gigs

• Friday at Lona’s Restaurant, Franklin.

• Saturday and Sept. 21 at Sprague Farm and Brew Works, Venango, Pa.

• Aug. 17 at Jack’s Mountain Blues Fest, Laurenton, Pa.

• Aug. 20 and Oct. 15 at North Country Brewing, Slippery Rock.

• Aug. 23 at the Downtown Coffee Cafe, Hubbard.

• Aug. 24 at Foxburg (Pa.) Winery.

• Sept. 14 during the 4th Annual Sharon Arts & Music Initiative Blues Fest in Billy’s Black and Gold, Sharon.

• Oct. 4 and 5 at Franklin’s Applefest.

•Oct. 26 at Foxtales in Franklin.

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