Anyone who reads Shlemiel Crooks, the award-winning illustrated children’s book by NewSouth author Anna Olswanger, will hear the music in it. In the lilting rhythms of its charming Yiddish-inflected prose, you might even hear the author paying homage to her dad.
Berl Olswanger was a genial and talented blues man who created and played music in and around Memphis, Tennessee, for most of his life. A child prodigy (he started playing the piano at age three), he was a prolific composer, band leader, recording artist, and music store owner. In fact, he was so identified with his work that he became popularly known as “Mr. Music.” Now, in loving tribute to her father, Anna has created an elegantly realized website which showcases his work and, via audio links, allows the viewer to hear a few of his recordings. They are very special.
For more on Berl Olswanger, read Vance Lauderdale’s story from Memphis Magazine.
And in a fitting related development, a musical loosely based on Anna’s own Shlemiel Crooks has been written by Sean Hartley and Bob Kolsby and scored by Scott Ethier and Clay Zambo. The new work was given a successful first reading at NYC’s Kaufman Center last month.