ORIGINS OF THE CHALLAH FAME
This is KlezFiction. The complete KlezFiction series is here.
Why is the Klezmer Hall of Fame — aka The Challah Fame — in Cleveland? Here’s why: Do you remember Bob Malaga, the lawyer who brought the Davis Cup to Cleveland in 1964? Bob Malaga — aka Mr. Tennis — pulled off that Forest Hills-to-Cleveland heist almost single-handedly.
Mr. Guy wrote record reviews for his college paper, the Michigan Daily, about Muddy Waters, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Mott the Hoople, and The Up. He also wrote about Buddy Guy (no relation). Mr. Guy had insights. For instance, he disliked Detroit rock and roll because it was simplistic and too loud. Guy lambasted John Lennon’s “Free John Sinclair” concert at the Michigan basketball arena in 1971. Face it, Allen Ginsberg’s harmonium was not music.
John Sinclair and his friends at the White Panther Party were not happy with Guy’s review. Those potheads were fuming. What did they want?
Not the truth.
Guy left Ann Arbor in a hurry, returning to his hometown, Cleveland, to open a nightclub. Cleveland was perfectly situated on the nightclub circuit, halfway between Chicago and New York. Guy booked quality acts into his club, which he operated out of the basement of a shul on Taylor Road. Guy told the temple gadolim (big shots) he was running a Jewish music coffeehouse, and they were ecstatic. The rent was free.
Guy rocked the gatkes (underwear) off the shul — Taylor Road Synagogue (TRS) — which was empty even back then. The shul let Guy use the main sanctuary too. “Use the sanctuary but keep it Jewish!” the TRS president said.
Guy booked the Electric Prunes, Steve Miller and Quicksilver. All Jewish acts, according to Guy. Underground radio DJs bellowed, “Go see Steve Miller tonight at TRS!”
TRS’ sanctuary was packed. So Guy said to himself, “I’m in a shul. I’m making money. Why not go for some authentic Jewish music?” Guy locked onto klezmer. Dave Tarras sold out TRS, as did Mickey Katz.
When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened, Guy rode the Rock Hall’s PR coattails and opened The Challah Fame.
Guy displayed his personal memorabilia: a Corky & Lenny’s T-shirt, Park Synagogue refrigerator magnet and a saxophone reed signed by Hankus Netsky of the Klezmer Conservatory Band — “Love ya! Hankus.” Guy also had a flyer from Lethbridge, Alberta, 1966: Beatnik Coffeehouse Tonight / Tim Hortons / Michael Wex. Guy had violinist Steven Greenman’s fourth grade report card (redacted).
Are you interested in this stuff?
Apparently you are. You’ve read this far.
The Challah Fame keeps irregular hours. Please call ahead.