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 Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.



My friend Jeff didn’t like Cleveland. He didn’t like tumult: the horns honking, boom boxes, loudmouths, leaf blowers, his parents pestering him. He just couldn’t take it.

I subscribed to Hockey Night in Canada on cable TV for Jeff, so he would babysit my kids for free. Every Saturday night. He liked Canada — really liked Canada. He filled out immigration papers, waited months for clearance, got a job, and moved to a small town in Ontario. He came home the next day. He said he didn’t like the job in Canada, but he liked the Canucks. “They don’t give you the finger,” he said.

Then he moved to Canada again.  This time to Nova Scotia. That worked. Change your place, change your luck.

I haven’t seen Jeff in 28 years. I miss his acerbic slant on life. For a social worker, he was a total misanthrope and blisteringly funny. “Life is With People” was not Jeff’s M.O. He liked to eat Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks alone. He criticized me for going to restaurants too often. He claimed I was on a fruitless existential search for exotic experiences – for foods my bubbe and mother never made. He claimed I would “eat flanken cooked directly off the seat cover of a crosstown bus.”

We listened to Bob and Ray records, played music, and made fun of other Jews. Jeff knew some Yiddish — more than me. His favorite expression was Gey mit dayn kup in drerd. (Go to hell. lit: go with your head in the ground).

I had to drive Jeff everywhere. Lazy guy, and he had a car. I would schlep him to the Near West Side to hillbilly bars so he could jam with bands. He would play “Two More Bottles of Wine “and “Jambalaya.” That was real; it wasn’t Jewish. His favorite records were Nashville Skyline and anything by Hank Williams. Jeff sang only once on the East Side, at a cancer fundraiser at Heinen’s supermarket. He played “Good Old Mountain Dew” by the soda pops and “Oh Canada” by Canada Dry.

Here’s an essay I had in the Cleveland Plain Dealer last week (Nov. 30). There’s a paywall at the Plain Dealer. Here’s the whole article . . .


by Bert Stratton

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — I occasionally run into young people who lament they didn’t live through the hippie era. They will even listen to my hitchhiking stories. Nobody else will. I tell these young people that the big question in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s was, “Who’s your favorite band?”

The more obscure the band, the better.

Some astute choices were The Stooges, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. More mainstream, but still acceptable, was Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. Too mainstream: Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane and Joni Mitchell.

My favorite musician was Fred Neil, a Greenwich Village singer/songwriter. He wrote “Everybody’s Talkin’,” the theme song from the movie “Midnight Cowboy.” Harry Nilsson sang the movie track and made it popular.

Fred Neil was never popular. Good — for me. I sold my Fred Neil records a few years ago. Pete Gulyas, the owner of Blues Arrow Records in Collinwood, said my Neil recordings were worth more than all my Beatles and Dylan records combined. When Pete looked through my records, we found a receipt — $1.50 from Mole’s record store. Where was Mole’s? (It was on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights.)

Comic-book writer Harvey Pekar used to rifle through my albums. Talk about a record snob – Pekar. The only album he ever wanted was my “Charlie Parker Memorial Album,” Vogue Records, England, 1956. I didn’t sell it to Harvey. I figured if Pekar wanted the record that badly, it must be worth something.

Pete the Record Guy looked through my albums three times, and I bid adieu to “Aretha Live at the Fillmore West,” Herbie Mann’s “Memphis Underground,” and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band” ….

Who’s your favorite band now — in 2022? Are you even allowed to have a favorite band? Yes, you are, and you are encouraged to.

Every year in early December, the music-streaming service Spotify spews out data to its 456 million users, itemizing each listener’s most-played tunes of the past year. This annual reckoning is called Spotify Wrapped. Many fans share their Spotify Wrapped profile online; it’s the equivalent of showing off one’s record collection, circa 1970. Your Spotify Wrapped is your cultural ID badge.

I expect my Spotify Wrapped 2022 will feature Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and some newer acts, like Vulfpeck and the Fearless Flyers. (My son Jack is in Vulfpeck. He schools me on post-1975 music.) Songs older than 18 months represent 70% of the U.S. streaming music market, according to MRC Data, a music-analytics firm.

I rinse my dinner dishes to Joni Mitchell and often add Paul Butterfield for pot-scrubbing. Klezmer music is good for putting away leftovers. I’m not only Spotify Wrapped, I’m Saran wrapped.

I hitchhiked from Los Angeles to Chicago in 36 hours in 1973. That was a land-speed record for hitching, I think. The big hit on the radio then was, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree.” I learned to drive a stick shift, jerkily. The car owner was a Marine from Camp Pendleton, California, on his way to visit his girlfriend in Chicago. At nearly every rest stop, the Marine threatened to trade me in for a more seasoned stick-shift driver. But we made it to Chicago. Tony Orlando and Dawn are not on my Spotify Wrapped.

Who’s on yours?

Bert Stratton lives in Cleveland Heights and is the leader of the band Yiddishe Cup. He writes the blog “Klezmer Guy: Real Music and Real Estate.”

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1 Kenneth Goldberg { 12.07.22 at 2:29 pm }

So is this Jeff still in Nova Scotia? Canada? “Still around?”

2 Bert Stratton { 12.07.22 at 3:54 pm }

To Ken Goldberg: Last I heard Jeff is in Woodstock, Ontario.

3 Mark Schilling { 12.07.22 at 9:32 pm }

The ‘what is your favorite band?’ question stumped me as a teenager because I only listened to comedy albums (Bill Cosby, Spike Jones) and random top 40 tunes on the radio, though if pressed I would have said the Stones. A hip roommate at my U of M dorm (Hinsdale House) turned me on to folk and blues — and here I am today, still listening to Mississippi John Hurt on YouTube. And the pride of Piqua, Ohio, The Mills Brothers.

4 Stephen Mumford { 12.09.22 at 10:23 pm }

I’m not much of a music person (probably more of a real estate person) but recently had an urge to listen to records again. I bought an old KLH stereo at a local vintage sound store and started buying the records of my youth in the 70s: Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, Jimmy Cliff, as well as Bach, Leadbelly, etc.
So, makes me wonder: why’d you sell your old records?

5 Bert Stratton { 12.11.22 at 8:17 am }

To Stephen Mumford:
I listen to music on Spotify. I haven’t used a record player in a long, long time. So I got rid of the records.

6 J.D. King { 12.15.22 at 4:41 am }

Hah! I knew Pekar, a little, back in my comic book days, 1980s. He’d come to NYC every so often. Maybe his best comic, illustrated by Crumb, was about stealing some LPs from a radio station. I still have my LPs (and 45s and EPs) and a working turntable, as well as CDs and a CD player. No streaming in this house. Old school, bro. Anyhoo, found this blog via City Journal. Good blog! PS: Cleveland Boy, do you know Miriam Linna?

7 Bert Stratton { 12.16.22 at 3:43 pm }

To J.D King:
I don’t know Miriam Linna, Mr. Super Old School!

8 J.D. King { 12.17.22 at 2:01 am }

To Bert: LOL! Old school is the only way to fly! Gets you there on time. Quite rightly.

9 Ed Robitz { 12.27.22 at 9:21 am }

My wife is from Cleveland Heights. She tells me that Stratton House did a Christmas party for the residents, and that she helped with it. Is the Stratton House on your radar screen?

10 Bert Stratton { 12.28.22 at 9:11 am }

To Ed Robitz:
I don’t have any connection to the Stratton House condos on Chagrin Blvd., Cleveland. But some people think I own it!

11 Stan Dub { 12.28.22 at 12:16 pm }

I sold about half of my records around 1985. I was living in NYC and was out of work for awhile and not listening to them and I needed the money. There were lots of somewhat obscure rock bands like YES and PROCUL HAREM and KING CRIMSON along with some more mainstream classics like BLIND FAITH and JEFFERSON STARSHIP. As the father of two small children, I found a few of them embarrassing, like the BLIND FAITH album that pictured a topless 12-year old girl. Besides, I no longer had a record player.

The record store bought them all, about 30 or 40 albums, never mind the scratches. Mostly they paid me about 50 cents. One they paid me $4 for and the store owner said I probably couldn’t guess which one it was. He was right. It was Pink Floyd’s “Saucerful of Secrets”, an album I remembered listening to only when I was “under the influence”. I recall one cut with no words, just the sound of birds tweeting from various directions. I went home with about $30. Wonder what it would be worth today?

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