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 didn’t go to Woodstock. Never even thought about going. Wasn’t into Woodstock, period. I disdained anything popular. That was me. (My future wife, Alice, went to Woodstock for a fraction of a day. She saw Richie Havens and left because Woodstock was too crowded. By the way, Richie Havens was OK with me because he wasn’t super popular.)

I saw most of the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, which was two weeks before Woodstock. I should have seen the whole blues festival but my sister got married in Cleveland the same weekend. The chutzpah. I had to bounce back and forth from the wedding to the festival. I was the blues festival’s PR chairman, so I placed ads in major daily newspapers, Coda (a Canadian jazz mag), underground newspapers and Rolling Stone. I got in touch with the Voice of America, which taped the event. (The tapes haven’t resurfaced. Some other tapes have. There is a  just-released live double album.)  I worked with an ad agency in downtown Cleveland — a guy there did ads for the key company my dad worked at.

ann arbor blues festival poster 1969

First A2 Blues Festival, 1969.

The blues festival drew 20,000, and we spent about $60,000 from the University of Michigan and Canterbury House — an Episcopalian coffeehouse. That was a lot of money. ($419,000 in today’s terms.) I got a free trip out of it, to New York to talk to WNET. They weren’t interested in filming the festival because they had just done the Memphis Blues Festival.

Woodstock got a lot of ink because of the big crowd and the movie (1970).

Another national music festival in August 1969  was the Atlantic City Pop Festival. That drew about 100,000. Atlantic City Pop — you don’t hear much about that anymore. You don’t hear much about the Ann Arbor Blues Festival either.

The blues festival committee was U-M “blues freaks.” Most were Jews. University Activities Center — a student programming organization — ran an ad in the Daily that said hey-you-want-to-put-on-a-blues-festival? The student who placed that ad was Cary Gordon. He had a thing for Clifton Chenier. Gotta bring in Chenier! We did. And we brought in everybody else, too: Fred McDowell, Son House, Big Mama Thornton, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, and more. These old black musicians had a certain presence. They knew more about music and life than we did. Screw Woodstock.

*Speaking of old, B.B. King was 43. Son House was 67. Sleepy John Estes was the oldest at 70.

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1 DAVID G KORN { 08.28.19 at 9:31 am }

I made it to Woodstock, briefly experienced the rain, the lack of food and toilets, and traded a tuna salad sandwich for a ride to Maine. Got to Ogunquit and went to the home then occupied by your future wife. Her roommate told me, she’s not here — went to Woodstock.

2 Ken Goldberg { 08.28.19 at 9:37 am }

You were an enterprising student, Bert. Already into the big time….

3 Bill Katz { 08.28.19 at 9:51 am }

As Bert’s middle school-aged cousin offered the chance to skip out on the wedding and hang with college students, I found the festival a somewhat formative experience. Given the job of hawking programs, I naively handed in all the proceeds. But wish I still had one of the programs.

4 Mark R Schilling { 08.28.19 at 10:11 am }

That summer I was a counselor at the Fresh Air Fund camp near Fishkill, NY. Fishkill was going to be the site of the Woodstock festival before they changed it to Woodstock, about 40 miles away. If only, if only…

5 Gerald Rosss { 08.28.19 at 10:19 am }

Would love you to post a hi-rez pic of the Blues Fest poster. I went to the A2 Blues fest in 1973 – held at what is now the location of Huron High School. Fun times.

6 Bert Stratton { 08.29.19 at 8:49 am }

To Gerald Ross:

I don’t have a hi-res pic of the poster. (I don’t have a poster. My cousin Bill, who commented here, might have one.) I got the pic from an article, link below. The article — in its comments section — lists all the acts from the 1969 festival.

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