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.




I wore red Adidas tennis shoes to an audition for a soul band at E. 91st Street and Union Avenue.

The bandleader, Amos, liked my shoe color and my skin color. He said, “Ain’t no Holiday Inn going to hire no band without a white guy, and right now there ain’t nary a grain of salt in this room.”

I wasn’t too good on sax and harmonica, but I got the job.

Amos thought harmonica was corn pone, not a respectable axe for a black man, but it was OK for a white. He said, “We can use that harp. You hip to Tower of Power? They got a bad white dude on harp. You hip to War? Another bad brother of yours on harp.”

The keyboard player had doubts — not just about my playing. He didn’t like Amos’ pot smoking.

The keyboard player broke up the band a few weeks later. He said. “Weed is communicating with the demon.”

“What you think?” Amos said. “What you gonna do when we play cabarets and shit? It ain’t no motherfucking church!”

“I said, I quit.”

Regardless of the church/cabaret conflict, we would have broken up. At our next rehearsal, Amos’ son was on drums, then a woman drummer sat in. The other horn player — an old guy, about 40 — had no teeth. He said, “I can’t play without my choppers.” But he could play. He played bebop.

Amos wanted to try gut bucket blues, even country western. “I’m unemployed! I’ll try anything,” he said.

I stopped by the Hibachi Lounge at Union Avenue and E. 103rd Street, where we were scheduled to play. The bouncer wore a red jump suit and a red wide-brim hat; he shuckled (davened) at the pay phone like he was listening to Dial-A-Jewish-Concept. Several women line-danced to the jukebox.

The women stopped dancing when they saw me.

What's happnin', ladies?

Was I cool?

Ask the women.  I got out of there.


2. DETROIT 2002

Yiddishe Cup shared the bandstand with a soul band at a fancy wedding. I asked the soul singer if she had seen the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, which had just come out.  She said her father, pianist Johnny Griffith, was in it.

The tenor player said, “The movie didn’t feature the horn players.  It should have.”

The tenor player tuned up.  He sounded better than most Yiddishe Cup jazz solos.

The tenor player liked our klezmer stuff, particularly our “Araber Tantz.” “What kind of scale is that?” he asked.

“In Yiddish it’s called freygish,” I said.  (Freygish is the “Hava Nagila” scale: E F G# A B C D E.) “It has a flatted second and a 1½-step leap from the second to the raised third.”

“Very cool,” he said.

About time.

Public service announcement.
For all you readers down in Wayne County (Wooster), Ohio.
From Ellen Pill:

Re Don’t Buy From the Jew!  A History of Jews in Wayne County, Ohio — 1840-1950.  

We are writing a book and looking for any information on early Jewish settlers in Wayne County and surrounding areas: photos; newspaper clippings; personal information; and especially, anecdotes about daily life.  Contact Ed Abramson:  330.345.5350 or Ellen Pill:

[Editorial comment from Bert Stratton:  Don’t Buy from the Jew. Harsh! My grandfather Albert Zalk ran a “Jew store” in Yazoo City, Mississippi. They liked him down in the Delta.  My wife’s grandfather George Rosen ran a “Jew store” in Clarksburg, West Virginia.  I was there a few times.  The town loved the Rosens.]

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1 Ken Goldberg { 06.12.13 at 9:49 am }

That old department store still in downtown Wooster — can’t recall if it’s Jewish-owned, like so many were….

It was probably your eyewear “of color” that got you the job at E. 91st and Union. Keep that in mind for the future, please.

2 Ellen { 06.12.13 at 1:24 pm }

Freedlanders in downtown Wooster was finally torn down a few years ago — yup, it was Jewish owned. The Freedlanders contributed much to Wooster, e.g., Freedlander Pool, Freedlander Park, etc. That title is just a catch-your-eye working title — based on an early ad in the newspaper (which was actually followed by an editorial explaining all the reasons why you should buy from the Jew). Who wants to read a book called — “A History of the Jews in Wayne County” ? Jews actually did very well in Wooster and vice versa. Send us some more info! We love it! Book title ideas are also welcomed! :-)

3 Bert Stratton { 06.12.13 at 2:14 pm }

To Ellen:

Coincidentally, my wife’s grandfather’s store in Clarksburg, West Virginia, was Friedlander’s.

4 Marc { 06.12.13 at 3:12 pm }

My family has been running a “Jew store” in Providence,Rhode Island, since 1919. I have not witnessed much anti-Semitism in the last 27 years since I’ve been on board, but I think there is more out there beneath the surface than we would like to think is there.

I can think of a few unpleasant incidents over the years. I had one vendor’s salesman tell me that my salesman from his company refered to me as “that rich Jew”.

The Jewish part was right.

I had one painting contractor tell me how one of his Jewish customers was “Jewing him down.” He later apologized to me when he realized who he was talking to.

I had a vendor from the South mention Jewing someone down and never realized they were insulting me. Actually a very nice lady. I think, to her, it was just part of her regular vocabulary and didn’t think of it as insulting.

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