Welcome to the Nostalgic Ramber

Hans Jeff Borger is heard on WRGE 97.9 FM in Ocala, FL featuring Christian programming.

"The Nostalgic Rambler" radio show previously heard on Gene Martin & Friends has been suspended due to my commitments at WRGE.

Why a blog? I wrote a book "The Little Grownup: a nostalgic Michigan boyhood" which should appeal to most baby boomers. A mass market book? Well, not yet...but the potential is there! (Be sure to buy it at "finer on line bookstores" everywhere!)

The comments presented in "The Nostalgic Rambler" probably won't be of interest to the masses...anymore. If grandma and grandpa and their friends were still alive, then it would be a different story.

I live in the past. My time warp is a comfortable cocoon even if it sometimes drives my wife crazy. The music of the 1940s and 50s, the stars of those days were big stuff in their day, but are now almost forgotten. Oddly enough, I was born in '64 so those iconic years were for the most part over by that time.

Through "The Nostalgic Rambler" I maybe can help share my love and knowledge for those times and things...all at one time important pieces of Americana but now a bit faded in memory.

The woman who did the blog about cooking all of Julia Childs' French Cuisine Cookbook in a year got a sweet movie deal out of her blog experience. I wouldn't mind that but would be happy to know that you are reading this....and maybe enjoying my time warp, too.

Hans Jeff Borger

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Accordion Mania!

My wife and I recently got back from a trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The area is simply beautiful. Lake Superior is magical and the serenity of visiting the Porcupine Mountains and the Copper Country will stay with us for years to come.

An unexpected surprise was running into Marilyn Monsivais who along with her husband runs the Centennial Cabins in Calumet. She had her accordion set up in the resort office. When we arrived and checked in, we heard her extolling the wonders of accordion music.

To fill you in, I took accordion lessons in the 1970s and for years played songs like "Beer Barrel Polka" and who can forget the classic "Too Fat For Me" Polka?! What do you expect with parents who came from Germany? I still remember my repertoire by heart, even though I rarely get to play anymore. The poor accordion and accordion players just don't get any respect in the United States. In Europe they are still seen/heard quite often, even in pop music.

The 40s and 50s had lots of accordion music here to calm the masses (Dick Contino anyone?) ....or get them up to dance the polka! Of course, my idols Lawrence Welk and Myron Floren (pictured above with early Champagne Lady Alice Lon) kept the accordion sounds alive on tv into the 1980s.

Anyhow, once Marilyn found out I played, she hauled out her spare squeezebox and we had an impromptu jam session. Nice to see that this music is still alive in the Midwest and that folks like Marilyn are keeping the happy sounds alive. That was fun!

Click on this link to see a great clip of Myron Floren as he plays his accordion in Frankenmuth, Michigan during a German TV special of the "Lustige Musikanten" several years back. We also have some video of my playing with Marilyn that I would love to show you but I don't know how to post it here! I must find out how to upload some old videotapes to Youtube as I even got to interview Myron for a tv show years ago.

(pic above of Marilyn and me in the Centennial Cabins office!)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Lucy Love Affair continues with "The Lucy Show" season two

When I was growing up in the Detroit, Michigan area, Lucille Ball and her tv high jinx (I don't think I've ever used that word before....high jinx?!) were an important part of growing up.

Her classic 1950s sitcom "I Love Lucy" starring Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, William Frawley and of course Lucy, was seen every weekday evening after school and was mandatory viewing. For some reason this show became an obsession and still is to this day. I have all the "I Love Lucy" episodes on dvd and have watched them many times over. The show is still broadcast in local markets and on the Hallmark Channel. Unfortunately the syndicated prints are sped up and edited. The picture is often blurry. It is a shame as the dvd presentation of "I Love Lucy" is pristine, clear and, as Lucy would say, "Wundaful."

When Lucy got her divorce from Desi, she eventually returned to television in "The Lucy Show." This series was prime time top rated in the 1960s. When I was growing up in the 70s, reruns of "The Lucy Show" were shown locally at lunch time and I was a faithful viewer. Time wasn't good to "The Lucy Show" and it vanished from rerun heaven on local stations. When videotapes and dvds arrived on the scene, "The Lucy Show" was often to be found in cut rate cheap pirated versions with washed out copies and edited programs. Not very fitting for "The First Lady of Television" as Lucy was often called.

CBS probably figured they finally made all the money they could from the "I Love Lucy" franchise, releasing just about everything except a rare Desilu Revue Christmas Special. They finally released the official "The Lucy Show" first season last year and just now on the scene is "The Lucy Show" the official second season.

This dvd collection features 28 beautifully restored episodes, IN COLOR. Remember when THAT was something new? In fact, when these shows were first shown on CBS, they were shown in black and white. Desilu knew that color was coming and rerun money was to be made so they were shot in color. Lucy looks lovely and Vivian Vance, who was kind of frumpy on "I Love Lucy" looks good, too. This season also includes the introduction of Gale Gordon as Mr. Mooney, a classic tv character.

No, this isn't the magic of "I Love Lucy" but it does have some great shows including two featuring Ethel Merman. Also here are some great classic cast commercials, rare CBS clips, a full length Lucy/Bob Hope special, and show openings for sponsors like Jello. The lovingly produced interviews with Lucy's friend Carol Cook and actor Barry Livingston are lots of fun.

This is no bargain basement production, this is Lucy done with style and love. And like "I Love Lucy" it's filmed in Hollywood by Desilu!

Click here to watch an unofficial excerpt of "The Lucy Show" to get an idea of what the show is about!

pictured above: daughter Lucie Arnaz with her famous parents; The Lucy Show season two dvd.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

a great summer read by Andy Williams

Biographies of great singers are always high on my must read list and this one is no exception. Singer Andy Williams has that cool easy style much like another of my favorites Perry Como.

His book "Moon River and Me" published last year by Viking is cool and easy...like visiting with an old friend....and that's how you feel with people like Andy Williams. His tv shows and albums have entertained us for years. Here's a great clip of him singing "Danny Boy"

Andy certainly has lead an interesting life. In this book he details his early years and how his father was the driving force behind getting him and his brothers in show business. He writes about what it was like to ride high with a top rated tv show, hosting the first Golden Globe awards, but ruining his marriage. He also talks about his ex-wife and the controversy surrounding her shooting her husband. Williams knew Bobby Kennedy and was getting ready to go to dinner with him when he was shot. Andy sang at his funeral and hasn't sung the song since.

The book is just like life, humorous and melancholy at times. Andy had high and low points but now seems very content with his new life and theater in Branson, Missouri. One of the most interesting updates is how just a few years ago several of his songs were used in commercials overseas, prompting a huge resurgence in his popularity there. Go get 'em, Andy!

Above left is a picture of this great biography. To the right is my copy if his "Greatest Hits" album, which I had autographed at his theater in Branson. That was a great show by the way. I understand he still does a Christmas show there. Vacation plans, anyone?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Birthday Mitch Miller

Happy Birthday Mitch Miller! I wish I knew how to get in touch with this musical icon. He was born July 4, 1911 and is apparently still alive. I would love to say "thanks".

His music is alive and well here at "The Nostalgic Rambler." Young whippersnappers of today may not realize that he had many albums that were in the top selling charts of the day. In fact, according to the book "100 Best Selling Albums of the 50s" by Charlotte Greig, six of Mitch's "sing along" LPs are listed as best sellers.

Millions of people enjoyed his music which focused on the popular American songbook. I recall marching around the front room as a young boy as his "Holiday Sing Along" LP played in the 1960s and of course now it gets its annual play in December.

Mitch also had a great television show called simply enough "Sing Along with Mitch". I wish PBS would rescue that one out of the archives. Miller says he has all of the master tapes. Mitch also played an important part at Columbia Records. Anyone who loves the pop music of that era as much as I do is forever in debt to this great man for his legacy, including the careers of Johnny Mathis, The Four Lads, Rosemary Clooney, and Guy Mitchell.

Why is this man not remembered more? For one, he did a lot of corny novelty songs which aren't in vogue anymore and easy to dismiss. Some of the singers of the day didn't like what he chose for them, but the public ate it up and it made them stars.

I am proud to say I enjoy his music and hope to continue to sing along with his albums for many years to come.

For a very interesting interview with Mitch, taped just a few years ago, click on the link from Youtube. It is rather lengthy but will give you great insight into this man and his legacy.

By the way, the pic on the left above is from "The Nostalgic Rambler" archives. It is a classic slide from/of my grandpa from his 50s/60s slide collection. His birthday gift? A radio and a Mitch Miller album! On the right is the musical genius himself, Mr. Mitch Miller. Happy Birthday Mr. Miller!