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.



I’ve had musicians quit Yiddishe Cup. I’ve fired guys from Yiddishe Cup. I’ve never had anybody retire from Yiddishe Cup — until now. Don Friedman, Yiddishe Cup’s drummer, hung it up after 17 years. Thanks for everything, Don!  You showed up on time, were easy to get along with, and played well. What more could a bandleader ask for?

Here’s Don turning in his bass drum heads. (Followed by a Don-is-god post from 2/27/13.)

DON FRIEdman turns in his gear 10_8_15  outside corky and lenny's

Don Friedman turns in his gear 10/8/15.


Yiddishe Cup’s drummer, Don Friedman, also goes by the name Donny Mann (as in “Shelly Manne” and “Herbie Mann” — fellow yids).

“Donny Mann,” the name, started back in pre-history — the 1970s.  “Jan Paderewski gave me the name when we were playing five nights a week at the Blue Fox Restaurant in 1974,” Don said. “Talk about wiseguys.  It was all Mafia guys at the bar.”

“Jan Paderewski?” I said.

“Yes. His parents were musicians. They played a lot in Little Italy.”

Jan Paderewski’s great, great uncle was the Jan Paderewski, the Polish pianist and statesman.  Jan Paderewski of Cleveland was a stand-up comedian, restaurant owner and pianist. He played light classical and standards.

“Donny Mann” 2011

Donny Mann attended Berklee in 1961 — when Berklee was just one building with a couple hundred students. Donny dropped out. That was the idea: drop out and play gigs. (Still is.)

Donny Mann’s first pro gig was at age 16 in his hometown, Erie, Pennsylvania. Don played with the Stardusters  (piano, accordion, alto, and drums) every Saturday night at the American Legion Hall.  Tunes like “Poinciana” and “Moonlight in Vermont.”

“I heard ‘The House of Blue Lights’ in the late 1950s,” Don said. “That drove me nuts. I loved it.”

Don worked in a hat store in Erie — “My first encounter with retail,” he said.  Don eventually worked in a men’s clothing store in Cleveland.  And he listened to jazz — Gene Krupa through Tony Williams.  “I shied away from rock and roll.  It was primitive to me.”

“I wasn’t crazy about New York,” Don said.  “Cleveland was the big-time, being from Erie. In the 1950s and 1960s, Cleveland was the big-time — look out, Jimmy Brown!  In Erie, I rooted for the Browns, not the Steelers.”

Don worked at Rogers Drums in Cleveland, beginning in 1965.  He sold drums and musical-accessory chazerai to mom-and-pop music stores, and he gigged at night.  “Every other word I said was hip. ‘I’m hip, man.’  I used that too much.  I try not to say it nowadays, but it’s hard.”

Don hung out at the Theatrical Restaurant. “I was never in the section where you ordered the expensive steaks,” Don said.  “I sat at the bar.”  He sat behind the featured drummer, behind the bandstand — the best place to watch the drummers’ hands and feet. He saw Cozy Cole, Papa Jo Jones (“He wore white socks”) and Louie Bellson.

“Bob McKee, the house drummer, played a blue onyx Rogers. All the drummers loved that set. It had Swiv-O-Matic hardware. The Japanese copied it. Bobby still has the set in his basement. He’s in his eighties now.

“Philly Joe Jones was at the Theatrical, too.  He was more modern than Papa Jo. Buddy Rich was there. Gino was there too.  Gino was a bit past his prime —  past his fame.”

“Gino who?” I said.

“Gene Krupa. Everybody called him Gino.”

 . . .Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together and welcome the coolest guy in Yiddishe Cup, the one and only Donny Mann!

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1 Steven Greenman { 10.21.15 at 9:22 am }

A great tribute to a great guy! Way to go Donnie! You will be missed.

2 Irwin Weinberger { 10.21.15 at 9:27 am }

Bert, this is a great tribute to Don. I count Donny as a fellow musician and a true friend. I will totally miss Don’s beat backing me up as I sang. I likedthe way he drummed. He was never overly flashy but truly consistent like a Metronome. I will truly miss you Don.

3 Shawn Fink { 10.21.15 at 5:49 pm }

Best of luck to Don! He’s a tremendously talented drummer, with a great – and self-deprecating – sense of humor. I’ll miss having him behind me when I’m on the bandstand with you guys, particularly the way he loved to bang and bash on those “Ortho-rock” numbers.

4 don friedman { 10.21.15 at 5:57 pm }

I was just written up by a New York Times and a WSJ writer! Thanks Bert! Now send that to NYC and make me even more famous. Seriously, thanks for all of the great times. Working with all of the guys was always a party. Irwin, your multi-talents precede you. Alan…your knowledge and guidance(really) always made me better. Steve’s great musicianship and brilliant brass played right to my cymbals. Loved it. Bert’s terrific playing put the bands purpose in perspective. And his great organizational skills made it all work. Tamar is NY talent. Alice and Danny work hard and complimented the band. Like Elaine Stritch sang on broadway that terrific tune, check it out on line………I’m Still Here! PS. I have a lot of stuff for sale including a beautiful set of Yamaha drums. (This has been a public service announcement).

5 don friedman { 10.21.15 at 6:03 pm }

And Shawn………I will miss those great Ortho tunes. Especially the way you belt them out. Always with great meaning. Tell you what I’ll really miss……..J&P! [“Joe & Paul’s.”] That became so much fun. The energy knocked me out. (or was it the beer?) Actually, a combination. Rock on!

6 Steve Ostrow { 10.21.15 at 6:09 pm }

What a great tribute. Wish I had the words to express how much I’ve enjoyed playing with Don over the years. Don added stability to the band…the flywheel. The “clock.” Bert’s words ring well. You’ll be missed, Donny!

7 Walt Mahovlich { 10.21.15 at 7:27 pm }

A great drummer, a fine musician, and a great guy all around! Enjoy your retirement Don!

8 Bert Stratton { 10.22.15 at 11:10 am }

To Don Friedman:

Don, I haven’t been published in the Wall Street Journal. You’re thinking of a recent Vulfpeck review by WSJ critic Jim Fusilli.

9 Dave Rowe { 10.22.15 at 11:47 am }

Sounds like a big loss – maybe you can lure Charlie Watts
away from the Stones – he’s versatile and young for his age, he probably shows up on time.

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