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 Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.



Walt Mahovlich, the leader of the Gypsy-style band Harmonia, had hundreds of cassette tapes in his living room. He had custom-made bookshelves lined with tapes. There were Yugoslavian field recording from the 1970s and commercial ethnic tapes from the 1980s and 1990s.  And he had dubbed some LPs to tape.

Walt’s wall o’ tapes was organized by nationality: Albanian, Croatian, Hungarian, Jewish, Macedonian, Romanian, Rusyn, Serbian, Slovak and Turkish.

A tape — a brand-new chrome tape with Dolby — often sounded as good as the original LP.  But few dubbers bought chrome.  Even the commercial tapes released in the 1980s weren’t always chrome.

One big downside to tape: the tape player would occasionally eat the skinny tape, and you’d have to splice it back to health.

The cassettes, with their cases, were compact.  Give them that.

walkmanI bought a Sony Walkman cassette player in 1981, just prior to my first son’s birth.   My wife, Alice, went through three 24-hour shifts of obstetricians before she delivered.  I had the cassette tapes (dubbed jazz LPs) and two corned beef sandwiches from Irv’s Deli.  I was set.  My wife had complications.

The doctors wanted to check it out. Not the complications. The Walkman. They had never seen one.

Three years ago I bought a Chinese Walkman knock-off for $40 at Radio Shack.  I thought the Walkman might disappear.

Sony recently announced the end of Walkman cassette player production.

Two words:  Stock up.

Teddy Stratton, 1 month

Teddy Stratton, 1 month


Walt Mahovlich’s wall o’ tapes still exists in the same West Side living room.

Last week Walt said, “I should transfer my tapes to digital.  Who knows how long they’ll last — the tapes.  But what I really need to do is record a 78 — something that will really last!”

“You want to record a 78 RPM?”

“Yes.  Alan [Yiddishe Cup’s keyboard player] has a 78-making machine.  I saw it years ago.  I want to record a tune, then prematurely age the disc — the 78 — and place it in strategic places for people to find.”

“Like at Goodwill stores?”

“Maybe.  It’ll be a hoax, like Piltdown Man.”

“An original tune?”

“No, a clarinet piece I learned years ago.  I’ll call it ‘Der Freylekher Bulgar’ for the Jewish market and ‘Lerinsko Narodno Oro” for the Macedonians. It’ll be the same tune, two markets.  Like Tarras.” *

“Do you have a Walkman?”

“No, I’ve never had one.”

“You should get one.”

“I have a tape deck. I’m set.”

Walt Mahovlich, accordion, had an aura.  Yiddishe Cup, 1993

Walt Mahovlich, accordion, had an aura. Yiddishe Cup, 1993

* Dave Tarras, klezmer clarinetist, sometimes “re-gifted” his Jewish tunes to fit the Greek market, and vice versa.

“Der Freylekher Bulgar” is Yiddish for “The Happy Dance.”  “Lerinsko Narodno Oro” is Macedonian for “Lerin Region Folk Dance.”

Thanks to Lori Cahan-Simon, musician and Yiddishist, for the  correct spelling on “Der Freylekher Bulgar.”

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1 diddle { 12.11.10 at 12:58 am }

check out daptone records. they would plant their records with hipsters who thought it was old stuff.

2 MARC { 12.15.10 at 2:22 pm }

That’s a brilliant idea about making the 78.

By the way, when my wife gave birth to our son, it was one of the first days the new Rhode Island maternity hospital was open. When it came time to wheel my wife into the operating room, the doctors were debating which door to use. It was like a Three Stooges episode.

3 Irwin { 12.19.10 at 6:38 am }

My son was a preemie weighing in at 2 1/2 lbs. Leaving him in his incubator for weeks on end was excruciating. So I recorded a cassette tape of lullabies (Yiddish and English) to sing him to sleep when I wasn’t there.

After his birth I bought two tiny speakers that could hook up to a Walkman and had the nurse place it in the incubator. They would switch it on from time to time and it helped me feel at ease knowing my son would hear my voice.

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