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.



My grandfather owned a record label in Cleveland, like the Chess brothers’ thing in Chicago, except smaller. Gramps’ label churned out everything from Slovenian polkas to gospel. It was a labor of love. Gramps’ parnassah (livelihood), all along, was a shopping strip center he owned on Mayfield Road — the main drag in Cleveland Heights. Gramps rented to a print shop, beauty parlor, locksmith and bar. I hung around the bar in grade school for the pretzel rods.

Gramps used a storefront for his record label. The place had no sign. My grandfather said to me, “I’ve got this little curl in my tail — this little something different — this something the new treatment doesn’t cure. I’m in trouble. The doctors tell me, ‘We can’t straighten out your tail.’ You’re dead. That’s what. I’ve got one or two more records in me.”

Gramps liked a Slovenian-style polka group out of Wickliffe called Terri and the Soup Nuts, a popular all-girls band. Gramps said to me, “There are a lot of Slovenians in this town. A lot. Money will be made.”

Money was not made. Terri and the Soup Nuts didn’t sell many records. Johnny Pecon did better. Yonkee, way better.

Gramps had a soft spot for Terri and the Soup Nuts. He told me, “That stupid name sticks! Sticks like a burr.” He put a pic of the girls on the side of a CTS bus. No traction. Only one DJ ever spun the girls’ records — Tony Petkovsek, the “nationalities hour” honcho. That was limited.

At Gramps’ funeral, Terri asked to sing a hymn. An ecumenical, no-Jesus thing. Hey, Terri, no music at Jewish funerals. She handled the rabbi’s rejection well.

This is all history.

Terri and the Soup Nuts’ records and memorabilia are in storage at the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame. All the musicians are dead. The building on Mayfield Road is still there. Somebody should put up a Cleveland Heights heritage plaque there, right next to Subway.

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1 Shawn Fink { 03.17.21 at 9:58 am }

The late Tony Petkovsek was a good friend of my father’s, they were both on WXEN together back in the good old days. I remember visiting Tony’s studio in the back of Kollander Travel on E. 200th, as a kid. Tony was known for being the most laid-back man in radio, nothing ever rattled him, his on-air pacing was somewhere between comatose and drowsy. He was one of a kind, a walking encyclopedia of Polka music and culture, and as nice as they come, a true Cleveland legend!

2 marc adler { 03.17.21 at 2:26 pm }

Funny you should mention soup nuts, this being a few weeks before Passover. I had a cat that loved soup nuts. We would buy them before Passover. They came in a box with one side open but covered with clear wrap. He would smell them and find them even if they were at the bottom of the shopping bag. He got to them and ate them.

3 Steve Kohn { 03.17.21 at 5:07 pm }

Non-selling groups like Terri and the Soup Nuts reminds me to resume my quest. If any readers can help, I’d be forever grateful.

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