October 1, 2003  
The Yiddish Theater in New York City (part three)
Issue:
4.10

The long way around is the answer. And as matter of fact it was really a "Long and Winding Road". To explain this further let me tell you some more of my history.

Last month I brought you up to speed on my life until age twelve or so. I'd like to continue now with my high school years.

In the spring of 1956 I took the test for and was accepted into the high school of Music and Art in New York City, (now called The LaGuardia School for the Arts). I took the test on Viola. I began studying the Viola a year prior to my entrance examination. You see my older sister, Sandy, (who was in her third year at M&A), told me that there was a shortage of Violists at Music & Art, so I decided to hedge my bets and learn to play that instrument. It meant two more days a week going to The Manhattan School of Music, but it was in retrospect worth the effort. I mean I no longer had Hebrew school or Bar mitzvah lessons or choir practice, since my voice had changed. And, oh yeah, by the way it also got me out of playing the Violin forever more.

I entered the freshman class in September of 1956 and spent the next four years honing my musical skills while getting both an academic and a very practical (real) education.

The practical aspect of my education came as a musician playing gigs for real money, (just like a professional musician). I was asked to join a band in my freshman year by several upper-classmen. I suppose that this was not due entirely
to the fact that I was a likable character with a nice smile, although the other band members did nickname me "Smiley". I imagine that it was, at least an equal part, if not the most important part, in the equation that I played electric guitar and knew all the words and chords to the all the newest Rock 'N' Roll songs.

This first band consisted of a drummer, a sax player, a stand-up bass player, a piano player and me. Getting to gigs on the buses and subways was always an experience for us. It tested all of our mental resolve and physical strength. We impatiently awaited the day when our oldest member could drive a car. You see my father had a station wagon that we could use once somebody could legally drive.

I still remember one very special New Year's Eve that we played at "The Schiff Center" on Valentine Avenue off Fordham Road and The Grand Concourse in the Bronx. When we left the hall after midnight, we were facing a snowstorm. We also were facing a strike by the bus and train employees.

Now try to understand that we needed four taxis to get us all home. One for the bass, two for the drum kit and one for the rest of our stuff. Did you ever try to find a cab during a snowstorm in New York, much less with the busses on strike? Hah! Well, we finally did manage to get three cabs, one at a time, over the space of ninety minutes. We sent the bass player and his bass in one cab, the drummer and his drums in two cabs along with the sax player, (who lived at opposite ends of The Bronx), and the piano player and I walked the three miles to my parent's house on Pelham Parkway. It's a good thing we got paid in cash, 'cause we had to offer double fare to all the drivers. When we split the take for the night, we made about ten dollars. I'm pretty sure that's the last time I ever accepted a job or played out on New Year's Eve.

But let me get back to the story. Since I played an electric guitar, (another story), I needed an amplifier. My amplifier came equipped with two input channels. One for guitar and another one marked with the ominous legend "MIC INPUT". Since whoever was singing needed a microphone and since that microphone was plugged into my equipment, I began a secondary new career as a "sound-man" at age fourteen.

As the band made money, we started to grow in equipment. We bought a P.A., (public address), system and a few extra microphones. Since I was the only one who knew anything at all about amplified sound it became my job to handle the sound system, (after all, I was the "sound-man" for our group).

I joined Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians in 1957 and have been a professional guitarist ever since. I was a member of many bands playing many different styles of music. My recording career began in 1958 with Barbara by The Blue Jays released on Roulette Records. I have given classical guitar recitals and have played guitar and 5-string banjo with bluegrass groups at clubs and festivals. Iíve been a country artist, a blues artist, a recording engineer, a major recording studio owner/operator and a record producer. Iíve also been involved in artistís management and launched the careers of several new artists. I started my own publishing firm in 1968 and founded three record labels after that. I also supplied live sound for many bands, churches and theaters.

When my father decided to take over The Eden Theater in order to produce Yiddish shows he needed a sound system. Knowing that it was part of the business I was involved with, he asked me to specify and install a system for that theater.

And that's how I became involved in the Yiddish theater on Second Avenue, in New York City with my father, Harry Rothpearl.

Little did I know that my job there was not over after the installation and sound tests were completed and judged to be satisfactory.
 

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