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. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.

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.




Barry Weinberg, the owner of Mayfield Music in Cleveland Heights,  rented PA systems and sold amps, guitars and drums. He died at 55.  He was a rocker who lived hard.  The sign at the back of his store read Give Me the Dough and You Can Go.

He carried a quality line of blues harps.

Before Barry, Mayfield Music was Chick Chaikin’s store. Chick lived pretty hard too, but in a middle-class way: Chick golfed, raised a family and played thousands of cocktail-
piano gigs.

Chick Chaiken

Chick Chaikin

Chick was a big-band leader and solo pianist for decades.  He played six nights a week at the Colony Restaurant, and  knew just about every pop song written, according to trumpeter Bob Dreifort, who I talked to recently.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/23/74

Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/23/74

Chick’s brother Bill went out to Hollywood and eventually ran a movie studio, Avco Embassy.  Bill was involved in The Graduate and more.

“I could have gone to the Coast too,” Chick said.  “But my life is here, and I have my work,  although every winter I say this is it. But I’m still here.”  (Plain Dealer interview, 1977)

Chick’s store was Currier-Chaikin Music.   Chick’s business partner, John Currier, was even older than Chick.  John Currier had played piano at Euclid Beach Park in the 1920s.

Cleveland Plain Dealer 1/23/53

Cleveland Plain Dealer 1/23/53

Chick called me “Toby’s son.”  Chick didn’t know my name. Chick and my father, Toby, were Kinsman Road boys.

Most of my father’s friends and acquaintances were businessmen: shoe store owners, insurance men, pawn shop owners.

How did my dad know a full-time musician?  I guess Toby had no choice.  Toby and Chick grew up almost next door to each other.

How did Chick wind up a full-time musician? I didn’t ask questions about old people when I was in my twenties.

Chick’s life was all about family and music, his daughter, Jeri, told me this year.  For a while Chick had a side job giving private music lessons through Cleveland public schools.

I didn’t have the chutzpah to ask Jeri if there was more to Chick’s headstone than Leonard ‘Chick’ Chaikin 1915-2000.

Here are three fitting epitaphs:

a)  “Here lies a man who made a living at music.”

b)  “Chick a la King. He tickled the ivories.”

c)  “I’m here 7 nights a week.”

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1 Irwin { 07.06.11 at 11:03 am }

I’m thinking about Chick playing at a piano bar right now up in heaven. I had never known him, but he seems like an interesting guy. Sounds like the polar opposite of Barry.

2 Gerald Ross { 07.06.11 at 1:35 pm }

I love stories about “working” musicians. The guys who are not playing to 10,000-seat arenas and have major ego problems. You do the gig with a smile whether it’s a concert, grocery-store opening or the “Fall Festival Of Shoe Savings!” (I’ve done this gig at least three times.)

If you can get people to pay you money for your music, you are lucky and you should be grateful. Not everyone gets this opportunity in life.

3 don friedman { 07.06.11 at 1:42 pm }

I knew Chick. I took his phone orders and sold him musical merchandise. His local wholesale house was Grossman Music Corp., and Rogers Drums. I worked there from ’65 to ’73.

I remember Chick as being the friendliest and most easy-going, stress- free music dealer around. Whenever I visited his store, he was the most welcoming person around. You couldn’t help but like him.

His business always seemed to be very successful.

4 Susan Greene { 07.06.11 at 11:23 pm }

This story warmed my heart. These men were fortunate to make a living doing what they loved. They were blessed.

5 Ellen { 07.13.11 at 10:29 am }

Awww, geez — now I almost feel compelled to somehow work Viagra and Vicodin into my comments. Guess I just did!

What a great piece. Thinking about all these older folks and how much we didn’t know about them has inspired me — I now meet with an older friend each week — we talk about local history and I write it down.

Even if we never do anything with all the pages, it’s a great experience for us both. There’s so much to know from each other……

6 Alan Douglass { 07.14.11 at 7:28 am }

The motto was “Give me the dough and you can go.” I had a t-shirt with that slogan on it and it was in big letters over the counter. The store was always cluttered, but not as bad as the basement!

7 Bert { 07.14.11 at 8:49 am }

To Alan Douglass:

Thanks for the correction. I just changed the copy. (I had the slogan as “Show Us the Dough and You Can Go.”)

If not for Alan, I wouldn’t have even mentioned the sign. Alan told me about the sign.

8 ron galo { 04.04.15 at 7:55 pm }

Chick taught me piano back in the 70s. He also taught me there was more to playing than just hitting the right notes. Thank you for everything, Chick.

9 Robert Dreifort { 07.15.16 at 5:06 pm }

I met Chick in 1968, when I started taking trumpet lessons at the Currier – Chaikin Music Store at Mayfield and Lee in Cleveland Heights. My teacher was Ernie Bacon. He was an old pro who taught some trumpet; but really taught me music. I was there every week and got a lot of opportunity to talk with Chick and his partner John. I was a big band buff and I loved to get their stories about the old days. I bought my first trumpet from Chick, and Olds Ambassador student model. After a while I upgraded to an Olds Studio Trumpet. I still have both of them. Ernie and I often stopped at the Knotty Pine Bar around the corner on Lee Road after lessons. Many times we talked about how nice it would be to run an old time dance hall. What a dream. Ernie wrote many of the charts used by local bands such as Paul Burton and Phil Nelson. A few times he got some of the teachers from Chick’s store to play a few of his charts. We did that at my Cleveland Heights home and Chick would sit in on piano. I also spent many evenings at the piano bar in the Colony Restaurant. It was like playing stump the band. I would call out a tune and Chick would play it. Then he would turn the tables on me and play a tune for me to name. He often stumped me. I don’t think I ever stumped him. He was a wonderful man and I miss him. I later met his daughter, Jeri, when we were students in the Masters in Public Administration program at Cleveland State Univ. We also both worked for Cuyahoga County for a while. She is a great lady and a tribute to Chick.

10 Dave White { 05.07.17 at 9:21 pm }

Hi Bert,

This might be a stretch – but my father was Lewis White and John and Chick were clients of his as he was a life insurance agent with New York Life back in the 70’s.

By chance did you know him ?
Your name sounds familiar- My parents were close with Sonny Bain as well, if that clicks – thank you

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