WITH OUR CORE PERSONNEL LINEUP more-or-less in place and two record albums — East Side Wedding and Streets of Gold — in the retail channel, we needed to organize our expenses, contracts, mailing lists, and travel itineraries. Percussionist John Raskin took over the lion's share of managerial duties — leaving me awash in administrative hoo-hah as before, but at least drowning more slowly. David Gray and I redoubled our efforts to find and transcribe pre-1930 klezmer discs. And we all pledged to increase rehearsal hours and make The Klezmorim our full-time professional commitment. Against sense and custom, we began to define ourselves as a name band rather than a casuals band.
A mixed bag of gigs came to us via friends of friends: a college concert hall one day, a catered reception the next. Occasionally we'd get stiffed on the fee, which caused us to grumble. Raskin, soon overwhelmed by the difficulty of balancing twin roles as player and band bureaucrat, sought professional management. He and I made a couple of exploratory trips to Los Angeles, hoping to rattle cages in the entertainment industry. No dice; a klezmer band was too outrageous a concept to open any doors.
A batch of East Coast gigs made us the first nationally-touring klezmer revival band — transporting D minor across state lines. At The Great Hudson River Revival, Pete Seeger's environmentally-conscious folk gathering, our raunchy al-fresco rendition of "Freylekhs fun der Khupe" got recorded for the festival album. The riverbank glowed with fireflies at night, idyllic as a Currier & Ives etching of unspoiled Colonial wilderness — except for the part where we got crop-dusted with insecticide. My remaining lung is fine, thank you.
1979: I could tell of a warm Halloween welcome in frigid Montpelier, Vermont... an unforgettable romantic encounter in Ann Arbor... jamming with ancient klezmer clarinet master Dave Tarras... recording soundtrack music for a pair of independent films... getting prison inmates up and dancing, to the guards' chagrin... riotous good times with Henry Sapoznik in Brooklyn... reuniting with my old musical partner David Skuse at SUNY Binghamton... but heck, we'd be up all night jawboning, and here it is already past bedtime.
I do wanna hail two cats whose emergence in '79 turned The Klezmorim into THE KLEZMORIM. Mimi Fariña sent us Rick Foster, who as manager extraordinaire guided our career for the next nine years. And we grew as an ensemble with the addition of tuba master Donald Thornton, who ended up keeping the band alive for five more years after my departure in '88. The inside story continues in 1980... >>