Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz, too.

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.

Stratton has written op-eds for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.



A handful of klezmer musicians have PhDs and do klezmer-related research.  Hankus Netsky, Walter Zev Feldman, Joel Rubin, Jeffrey Wollock, and probably a few others I’m not aware of.

These men have put in time at the library as well as in the practice studio.  Some speak Yiddish and other foreign languages.  They know  obscure facts.  For instance, there was a close link between klezmer musicians and barbers, “considered one of the lower [professions] among the Jews . . . The barber was considered slightly below the server — the professional baker at weddings — and equal to the midwife.”  (Walter Zev Feldman, “Klezmer Musicians of Galicia,” Polin, Studies in Polish Jewry, Vol. 16, 2003)

These klez researchers often interview old people.  Hankus Netsky — he is so good at interviewing old people he should run a nursing home.  His PhD thesis was on the culture of old-school, 20th-century Philadelphia Jewish wedding musicians.

Interestingly, Netsky and the other PhDs are now kind of old themselves.  Fifties and up.  (Hankus is The Sage.)

For my research (non-academic), I focused on these new klez docs and their peers.  I bought recordings from nearly every klezmer band at the end of the 20th century.  I have CDs and tapes from Di Gojim, a Dutch goy band; Aufwind, a kraut klez band; and even the Alaska Klezmer Band.

Then I gave up. Too much product.  Every Beryl, Meryl and Shmeryl klezmer band was putting out recordings.  Yiddishe Cup — four CDs from them alone.

However, I did keep up with klezmer literature.  Real easy.  Not much product.  There hasn’t been a book on klezmer in at least eight years. The book-buying market spoke and said “No market.”

Here, for example, are some manuscripts looking for publishers:

Call Me Henry . . . No, Hank.  An in-depth look at American Jewish identity by Henry “Hank” Sapoznik, a klezmer and old time banjo player.

100 Jewish Music Insults by Pete Sokolow, pianist.  Putdowns that really work. Culled from the first 10 minutes of a five-hour interview with Sokolow.  Try these the next time you’re at a klezmer jam session:

1. What’s your phone number? Junior congregation needs a clarinetist.
2. You’re slicker than butter on matzo, but there’s no salt.
3. Tighten your neck strap.  Tighter.
4. You couldn’t find freygish with a GPS.  [Freygish is a mode.]
5. I make desk lamps. Let me see your clarinet.

Where Klezmer Meets Corn, a memoir by “Klezmer Guy,” about a klez band’s one-night stands (concerts primarily) in the Midwest.  Some senior sex.

My Tsimbl is in Tune, a mystery by Pete Rushefsky, tsimblist.

Tattoo Jews by Mark Rubin, bass player.  A true-life account of large drawn-on Texas Jews taking on Los Tigres del Norte for bar mitzvah share in Ciudad Juarez.

Where’s Mincha, Helmut? funded by the German National Tourist Board’s “Deutschland ♥ Jews” initiative.  Subtitled “A Jewish Musician’s Guide to Germany.”  By Joel Ruben with Rita Ottens.   [Mincha is the afternoon service.]

Friends of Molly.  A steamy romance about a chick minyan — Friends of Molly — that reconnoiters annually at a Catskill hotel sauna.  By Eve Sicular, bandleader of the Isle of Klezbos.  [A minyan is 10 Jews.]

Just Say “You?” by Michael Wex, Canadian Yiddishist and writer.  Includes  dining-room seating charts from historic klez conferences.  Who sat with whom, why, and what happened post–mandelbroit and coffee. [Mandelbroit is Jewish biscotti.]

Old is the New Thin by Hankus Netsky.  How to improve your love life by looking and acting 10 years older than you really are.  Comes with a CD, Music to Suffer By, from the New Thin Department, New England Conservatory.

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1 MARC { 04.07.10 at 1:47 pm }

LOL! Bert, you made my day. Can you send me a copy of Pete’s insult book!

2 Ellen { 04.07.10 at 4:09 pm }

Okay, two comments. First, ahem… 50 is NOT “kinda old.” It’s not old at all.

Next, your memoir — Where Klezmer Meets Corn — gotta love it! That’s got film script written all over it (written in Yiddish, probably). Let’s take a meeting and talk.

Um, okay, maybe three comments. Why, oh why, would you give your audience klezmer insults??

Well, so I have four comments — doesn’t toast taste especially good right after Passover? (non-sequitur, I know).

3 Steven Greenman { 04.07.10 at 6:48 pm }

You wrote: “There hasn’t been a book on klezmer in at least eight years. ” What about Yale Strom? He keeps coming out with books. And I know that Joel Rubin wrote a book about klezmer music awhile back, although it is in German. I would hope that Zev would write a book about klezmer music but I’m not sure if it would happen. Maybe Josh Horowitz?

4 Gary Gould { 04.08.10 at 1:24 am }

I’m a big fan of klezmer literature! Transcriptions, history, recipes, photos, anecdotes, insults . . . I read it all. Fortunately, until more titles get published, there’s always the Klezmer Guy blog! Thanks, Cousin Bert.

5 Bert { 04.08.10 at 8:13 am }

To Steven Greenman:
Yale Strom’s The Book of Klezmer came out in 2002. Joel Rubin’s Judische Musiktradionen (German) came out in 2001.

6 "Kenny G" { 04.09.10 at 9:07 am }

Klezmer street musicians are still in the lowest rung socially and economically – you gypsies!

7 Irwin { 04.09.10 at 10:10 pm }

I’m still trying to remember the senior sex in the cornfield. Was it good for you?

8 Jewish Music { 05.09.10 at 9:17 am }

Great post! In my line of work we used to joke about the chasidishe guy who comes to the band and says “can you play louder and with a bissel (little) more extortion”…

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