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.



I auditioned for a soul band at East 91 Street and Union Avenue. I had on red Adidas tennis shoes. The bandleader, Amos, liked the colors: the red shoes and my white skin. He said, “Ain’t no Holiday Inn going to hire no band without a white guy, and right now there ain’t nary a grain of salt in this room.”

I wasn’t too good on sax but I could play harmonica. Amos was intrigued by the harp; he considered the harmonica “country” — not a respectable axe for a black man but OK for a white guy. He said, “We can use that harp. You hip to Tower of Power? They got a bad white dude on harp. You hip to War? Another bad brother of yours on harp.”

The keyboard player had doubts, not about me so much, but about pot. He was exasperated by Amos’ marijuana smoking. The keyboard guy had qualms about playing in bars where customers might be high on marijuana. “Weed is communicating with the demon,” he said.

Amos said, “What you think? What you going to do when we play cabarets and shit? It ain’t no motherfucking church!”

“I quit,” the keyboardist said.

Things fell apart. Amos’ young son sat in on drums the next rehearsal, and then we had a mediocre female drummer. A horn player – an old guy (about 40) – had no teeth. He said, “Man, I can’t play without my choppers.”

Amos said we should move in a different direction: “gutbucket blues” or “even country western.” (I didn’t bring up klezmer because I hadn’t heard of it in 1975.) Amos said, “I’m unemployed! I’ll try anything.”

One night I stopped by the Hibachi Lounge at Union Avenue and East 103 Street. That venue was supposed to be our first gig. The Hibachi bouncer, wearing a red jumpsuit and red wide-brim hat, hung out at the pay phone, talking and shuckling (davening) like he was listening to Dial-A-Jewish-Concept. Several women line-danced to disco music from the jukebox. A couple women stared at me. Was it my red tennis shoes?

We never did play a gig.

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1 comment

1 Mark Schilling { 03.13.24 at 10:34 am }

“Gigging” deserves a revival.

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