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 is an occasional contributor to the New York Times, the Times of Israel, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and City Journal. He won two Hopwood Awards.


 
 

MOST EVERYBODY WAS
INTO STEPPENWOLF

Most everybody was into Steppenwolf. My freshman roommate liked the MC5 too. I convinced him to move out. I got a roommate who was into Jefferson Airplane. That was better, but not much. (By the way, fans said “Jefferson Airplane” or “The Airplane,” but never “The Jefferson Airplane.”)

Pure jazz — that was my thing. The blues, too, was OK. My last freshman roommate, Dave (not his real name), was an inner-city Chicago kid into nothing musically. Dave didn’t know a clarinet from an oboe. We got along fine. (I went through three roommates. Was it me?)

I visited Dave at his Chicago house decades later (1995); he lived in his childhood neighborhood, Wrigleyville. His teenage kid was jamming to jazz play-along records. Dave was a brakeman. He had begun the U. of Michigan as a pre-med, like everybody else, but had come out a railroad brakeman, like Neal Cassady. Sophomore year he had chalked “Take Drugs” and “Only Fools Stay in School” on the sidewalk outside the co-op house. Dave did drop out.

Dave, rolling a cigarette on his Chicago front stoop, said he was sweating his monthly urine test. His house, which he had bought in 1975 for $30,000, was worth more than a half mill. “I’m a capitalist,” he said. “I have two renters.” And he still subscribed to the Socialist Workers newspaper. His kid played “Watermelon Man” on tenor sax. Every high schooler starts on that, thanks to Jamey Aebersold’s jazz play-along series.

This scene was familiar, except for The Militant newspaper. (I had played along to Aebersold, too; my parents had subscribed to Newsweek.)

Bert Stratton jamming in South Euclid, Ohio, around 1970. (My mom caught the sailfish.)

Bert Stratton jamming in South Euclid, Ohio, around 1970. (My mom caught the sailfish.)

A version of this appeared post here 4/28/2010

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13 comments

1 Mark Schilling { 04.29.10 at 10:15 am }

Bert,

You’re talking only frosh year, right? About roommates.

Because your sophomore year, your Mich House roomie was the cool, incredibly tolerant John Cochrane, I believe. (I know he was tolerant because he had the misfortune to room with me for an eyeblink my senor year.)

He’s one you never tracked down, correct?

2 Bert { 04.29.10 at 10:43 am }

To Mark Schilling:

John Cochrane was so cool he never aged. He’s still 25 and in the National Guard.

3 Marc { 04.29.10 at 2:43 pm }

Bert,
I did jazz for a while. Studied with Greg Abate. Practiced lots of chords. Couldn’t really get the improv down.

4 "Kenny G" { 04.30.10 at 9:19 am }

You’re saying you actually started college at Berklee in Boston? Isn’t that the extremely ornate brick building? (I could look this up in two seconds but it’s easier asking you….)

5 Bert { 04.30.10 at 10:02 am }

To Kenny G:

I didn’t enroll in Berklee. I walked the halls for an hour and heard what I would be up against: great musicians.

I don’t remember the building as ornate. It looked more like an office building, I think.

6 Don Friedman { 05.05.10 at 12:39 pm }

Berklee in Boston…249 Newbury St…1961…in the Back Bay area.I enrolled there for under $1000.00 for two semesters, maybe three.

Berklee was an old mansion on the corner, about three large floors, plus a full basement.

Gary Burton had been there 6 months before I arrived. I think he is still on the staff.

I moved to Cleveland in 1965 and worked for Rogers Drums and Grossman Music Corp. Met Bill DeArango through the sales department and sold him his first Wa Wa pedal and his first sitar.

I used to hang at his store with the James Gang, Glen Schwartz(Pacific Gas & Elec.)…Skip Hadden(Weather Report). That place was music history.

7 Mark Schilling { 12.21.16 at 9:55 am }

Your chronology seems off — The MC5 didn’t release their first album, “Kick Out the Jams,” until February 1969, but you entered the U of M in September, 1968. How could your first roommate have annoyed you with a record that didn’t exist? BTW, I bought “Kick Out the Jams” as a present for an old school friend in Barberton. His wife told him to toss it soon after, I heard.

8 David Korn { 12.21.16 at 10:22 am }

Steppenwolf was great, but the soundtrack of my freshman year was Iron Butterfly. No one needed to buy the record because one guy put speakers in a dorm window facing the quad and played In a Gadda Da Vidda (who knows or cares how that’s spelled) pretty much constantly.

9 Ari Davidow { 12.21.16 at 11:14 am }

Jefferson Airplane is =still= the best.

10 Bert Stratton { 12.21.16 at 11:23 am }

To Mark Schilling:

MC5 must’ve been on the radio, or something. Or maybe I’m wrong!

Yes, freshman year.

11 Seth B. Marks { 12.22.16 at 3:13 pm }

Wait a second…you’re recycling comments too? Going over your memoirs? When I was in college, dragging my first stereo to school (speakers folded onto the turntable and then could be separated to the perfect spacing), Warner Bros, I believe, had a promo album of various acts…The Big Ball…introduced me to Captain Beefheart and the B-52’s and other great ones. Doubt that we would’ve been roommates.

12 David Rowe { 12.22.16 at 8:49 pm }

Be glad you weren’t in college ten years later – in drorms those dorms it was “Frampton Comes Alive,” it was unavoidable.

13 Ken G. { 12.22.16 at 9:15 pm }

Yes, recycling comments from “another version” out of desperation? If this is the Berklee College of Music you were referring to, yes – it is ornate: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/88664686385314426/ Jefferson Airplane, Iron Butterfly, Steppenwolf; they all had some great songs – particularly in a psychedelic era.

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