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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Hundred Years From Today: Maxine Sullivan

I remember my grandparents having a serving tray that said "Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think..." I didn't understand that saying then but I do now. Mr. New Year's Eve, Guy Lombardo, had a song with the same name telling about how people don't enjoy life. They think they will later, working and saving for a retirement that may not ever happen.

As we start a new year, my melancholy personality (melancholy folks are great friends and workers but not always optimists....) recalls another song.

Back when I worked in radio, for a time our station used the wildly successful radio format "The Music Of Your Life." (I wrote a blog about this in the past about the genius Al Ham who invented it). Among the Bing Crosbys, Jo Staffords, and Artie Shaws of the day (superstars), there were several recordings by folks I never heard of. One was Maxine Sullivan. I never gave it much thought until the other day, when I once again heard her rendition of "A Hundred Years From Today."

"A Hundred Years From Today" is a song much like "Enjoy Yourself, It's Later Than You Think." It's simply lovely. I never knew who Maxine Sullivan was or even what she looked like. I don't know where Al Ham got the recording Maxine made of the song or when it was recorded. I do want you to be able to enjoy it, so click here for a lost gem of music history. The Maxine Sullivan story is told quite well here. Interesting that she is hardly known in pop music history today in comparison to Ella, Rosemary Clooney, et al.

But then "A Hundred Years From Today..." no one will remember us either!

Writers: J.Young/Washington/V.Young
Hey don't save your kisses - just pass 'em around
You'll find my reason - is logically sound
Who's gonna know that you past them around
A hundred years from today
And why crave a penthouse - that's fit for a queen
You're nearer heaven - on mamma Earth's green
If you had millions - what would they all mean
One hundred years from today

So laugh and sing - make love the thing
Be happy while you may
('Cause) There's always one - beneath the sun
Who's bound to make you feel that way
The moon is shining - and that's a good sign
Cling to me closer - say you'll be mine
Remember baby we won't see it shine
A hundred years from today

Happy New Year everyone and Enjoy Yourself, it's later than you think.....

PS: From the random acts of kindness dept, I'd like to thank Mr. Wheeler who out of the blue sent me a fun Guy Lombardo New Year's Eve show. Thank you kind sir!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas from Lucille Ball & Jimmy Stewart

Merry CHRISTmas from Lucille Ball and Jimmy Stewart......no, this isn't a clip from a zany "I Love Lucy" show or from the beloved movie "It's A Wonderful Life"......

Enjoy the real true story of CHRISTmas. Click here and enjoy this rare clip!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Get out those CHRISTmas records!

"It's CHRISTmas time in the city..." to quote the line from the song Silver Bells....

That also means it's time to get out all of the CHRISTmas lps and start playing them. Through the years I have collected quite a few records, but especially at CHRISTmas I long to hear the same old recordings that I grew up with. Somehow hearing those familiar songs brings me back to the simpler days of childhood and memories of lots of folks who aren't with us anymore.

I always have thought it was interesting how society casts off the music and singers of the past, as if no one is interested anymore. Oddly enough this time of year they are all resurrected for a short time, be it Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Percy Faith, and the rest of the greats. They are heard throughout the radio airwaves once again and in stores. My wife and I were in Walmart and heard the friendly sounds of Mitch Miller and the Gang singing "Santa Claus is Comin to Town." It was 1963 all over again! I think I heard several people singing right along as they gleefully shopped for their treasures.

Why is this music brought out of the archives? It is comfortable and familiar and just like my old CHRISTmas albums sends those warm fuzzies out. I only wish that people would realize what they are missing the rest of the year!

Enjoy the pics of some of my favorite albums here along with a pic of yours truly from "several" years ago. No, this isn't a photograph, but as proclaimed in the picture insert it's a "Santa-Graf!"

Merry CHRISTmas....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Here Comes Suzie Snowflake!

When television was in its infancy, stations had a lot of time to fill between shows. Around Christmas some special programming was aired to fill in this time and today we present one of those classics, Suzy Snowflake.

Featuring the beautiful voice of Norma Zimmer along with the Norman Luboff Choir, this simple black and white stop action holiday film was so popular it is still shown on several stations to this day. This short movie can be described in one word: charming.

I always hoped to meet Norma Zimmer but alas she passed away earlier this year. Her voice is just as enchanting as this old film is. I hope you enjoy it.

Click on the link here to watch this television classic from 1951. The song also made it onto a record around that time. Click here to listen to it by Rosemary Clooney.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Captain Kangaroo and the JL Hudson Thanksgiving Day Parade

Although I haven't lived in the city of Detroit since the late 1960s, I was born there and grew up in the suburbs. No one seems to be too proud they are from Detroit....except when we remember Detroit's heyday when they cranked out the cars everyone drove, the downtown area was alive and vibrant, and the city was bustling with holiday spirit at Thanksgiving when JL Hudson's put on their annual Thanksgiving Day Parade seen around the country on tv.

Those days are long gone, but here is a fun clip from the 1962 CBS coverage with your host Captain Kangaroo himself! Watch it here and Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sing Along With Mitch!

This week I want to share with you a recent discovery....A collector on ebay was selling a set of "Sing Along with Mitch" dvds. Of course I had to have this show. I'm probably the only one in the USA watching these shows tonight and it is a very enjoyable experience.

If you've been following my blog from day one, you know that I did an earlier posting on Columbia Records genius Mitch Miller who guided lots of stars through their 1950s hits. By the 1960s Mitch was on TV himself after having a string of best seller LPs featuring his "gang"...a men's chorus, singing popular songs dating back to the days of the 1920s and earlier!

"Sing Along With Mitch" is a television series that I had heard a lot about but other than a rare Christmas episode on VHS had never seen before. It ran from 1961 to 1964 on NBC and was brought back in reruns until 1966 (I think I read somewhere that reruns of Mitch replaced Sammy Davis Junior!) . Just like Lawrence Welk, nobody loved him but the public. With these dvds I was able to transform my living room back the the 1960s for some fun TV viewing. Not only did the shows start out with the famous NBC peacock proclaiming the show was in "living color" but most of these shows presented actually ARE in color!

It's amazing how corny these programs are...even cornier than my much loved and much maligned "Lawrence Welk Show." Mitch Miller is hilarious as he conducts the chorus in his stiff way. The chorus itself will not win any beauty contests -- the men look like anyone's neighbors....except of course that here they are often wearing those cool Perry Como type cardigan sweaters of the day and can sing! The myth is that there is a bouncing ball at the bottom of the screen. This is wrong. There is no bouncing ball. There are words that appear from time to time at the bottom of the screen for everyone to sing along with....no ball though.

Mitch had enough sense to include some lovely ladies in these shows. Diana Trask and Leslie Uggams were two of the beauties that were on regularly (and are still around! Check out their websites -- Diana's here and Leslie's here). They both got a Columbia record album based on their show stardom as you can see from the pics above.

Several of the shows have big named stars such as George Burns, Milton Berle, and a delightful grownup Shirley Temple as guests. Others have unbilled cameos during the sing a long segments with such TV legends as Johnny Carson!

Sometimes I think Mitch Miller was copying Welk's formula. He had Bob McGrath on as a tenor much like Joe Feeney. McGrath later went on to Sesame Street. Mitch also added the kiddy factor from time to time with the inclusion of the Quinto Sisters, who are not anywhere as cute as Welk's Lennon sisters but are charming in their own way. They have their own website today, too! Visit here.

The sing along songs were very nostalgic for the 1960s, reaching back to the grandparents of those years, so unfortunately these songs are often forgotten today. This is probably the true "Great American Songbook", a term used all too loosely today.

We will never see a program like this on in prime time again. One of the shows in the collection I bought (unfortunately in black and white) is the actual network airing. Great fun to see the ads of the day for the movie Mary Poppins, Scripto pens, Opel cars, Libby's orange juice, and to hear the booming NBC announcer says "This portion of Sing Along with Mitch brought to you by...." Also included are some network promos for Flipper, I Dream of Jeannie, and Get Smart. Those were the days!

I would love to see this entire series appear somewhere on PBS or at least on dvd, but as times have changed, there probably isn't too much demand for this. Too bad. "Sing Along With Mitch" is a corny but wonderful piece of Americana and I love it!

If you do a google search for Sing Along With Mitch DVD you will hopefully find these gems. You can also see some segments on Youtube here and here and here for instance. Enjoy and sing loud and clear so we can hear you!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Happy Sounds of Bert Kaempfert

By the end of the 1950s the Big Band sound was about over. A few bandleaders found success though with an updated sound. One of those was Bert Kaempfert. He wrote such hits as "Strangers in the Night" and "Spanish Eyes."

Kaempfert has always been one of my favorite big bands. No, he doesn't sound like the typical 1940s orchestra. Somehow his music seems more current today than the sometimes too dusty sounding nostalgic Miller/Dorsey/Shaw types.

Bert was a German who oddly enough had a connection to hiring the Beatles to back up another artist on an album! His sound definitely wasn't rock n roll though. His 1961 hit "Wonderland By Night" is a trumpet wrapped in sheer beauty.

Lots of his songs used a "shuffle rhythm", a catchy beat which just made the music all the more happy sounding. Listen to "A Swingin Safari" and enjoy someone's very clever pics put to this snappy tune. Here's another cute song called "Afrikaan Beat"which is also a toe tapper.

Kaempfert was basically a studio band but once in a while he made some live appearances including this one here.

Kaempfert died at the young age of 56 back in 1980. Too many cigarettes. His legacy continues on at his website. Click here to visit.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Moss Hart, Broadway dreamer remembered

Remember when we used to have to do book reports in school? I don't think it was high on my priority list then. Today though it's time for a book review, or let's just call it a book recommendation! The book is called "Act One, An Autobiography by Moss Hart" published way back in 1959. It's still in print and has become one of the all time greatest biographies of Broadway and the theater. I didn't know this when I found it at a thrift shop for $1 !

Everyone has probably dreamed about becoming rich and famous. Moss Hart was one of those people. He was fascinated with the world of the theater ever since he was a small boy in New York in the early 1900s. His family was poor.... and dysfunctional is probably an understatement for their relationships. Of course most of us never get to climb out of our dreams and obtain the success we might want.

Moss (who ever heard of anyone naming someone Moss?) wanted to get into the theater but it was an elusive dream for a long time. He worked in a basement building which stored people's stinky fur coats, he worked all summer running a summer camp entertainment program only to have it go bankrupt at the end. He didn't receive a cent. He tried a stint as an actor working with a talented but often drunk leading man.

Moss was a manic-depressive in a time when nobody really treated that. Perhaps that's why he had the drive to succeed? Somehow luck came his way and little doors were opening. After the talented but eccentric George Kaufman allowed him to collaborate they worked on several versions of one play for months on end. At the end of the book Moss is rich and becoming famous with a successful play on Broadway.

Moss Hart's command of the English language is stellar. His wit in this book is hard to match with anything I have read in a long time. The peculiar personalities of theater folk are so interesting. I didn't know who most of these people were, but it sure was fun to read about them.

In his later years Moss married Kitty Carlisle, known to many tv viewers in the 1950s for her game show appearances. Moss died in his 50s. "Act One" left me wondering what else he did in his career. I recall seeing his name on the "My Fair Lady" soundtrack as he staged the Broadway production. There are several biographies about him written more recently so those will be next on my reading list.

In 1963 Dore Shary (Moss's friend who later struck it big in Hollywood) did a movie based on Moss Hart's life and book also entitled "Act One." I don't think it went anywhere as I can't even find it on VHS or DVD.

Why did I pick up this book in the first place? One of my all time favorite bios is by Random House publishing company founder Bennett Cerf ("At Random"). Bennett was enamored by Moss Hart and mentioned him endearingly in his book. Of course "Act One" was also published by Random House!

PS: Here's a fascinating look at Moss seen through the eyes of his wife. "Most creative people have depressions," she says. Wow.

pics above include an ad featuring both Bennett Cerf and Moss Hart; postage stamp of Moss and Moss with Kitty

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fred Allen, radio star and national wit

Growing up in Southfield, Michigan in the 1970s we had access to a great library. Part of that library had a cassette tape lending program (anyone remember cassette tapes?). Take the early 1970s and subtract about thirty years and you still had the 1940s and what was known as the "Golden Age of Radio." Today in 2011 the 1940s seem like ancient history. Subtract thirty years from today and you get 1981....that doesn't sound like THAT long ago, does it? As Jack Benny would have said.... "Hmmmmmmmm."

Anyhow, as time marches on, I have digressed.....getting back to to those tapes....Some of my favorites were by the radio comedian Fred Allen. Fred was a master of words and wit. His show was topical for the time. Sometimes that made it hard to understand back in the 1970s. Still somehow the wry wit of this man came through. His radio show was top rated in its heyday. Listen to an episode here.

His humor served him well on the radio and in several books but he never made the transition to TV very successfully, probably because he didn't have the looks! He did serve as a panelist on "What's My Line?" for a while as well as a mystery guest. He was a great friend of Jack Benny and they sparred on their various programs in a famous "feud" that was all in fun.

I don't think we have too many national wits around anymore. The general population is probably too lowbrow to understand the comments. I think it must have been fun to gather around the radio and listen to Fred Allen in his heyday. I can't get too nostalgic for 1981 but somehow those cassettes I listened to in the 1970s still keep me interested in the times that were already passing into the nation's foggy memory banks back then....

pics above include Fred with his wife and often co-star Portland Hoffa

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nostalgic Glamorous Air Travel!

Air travel today is so hectic, stressful and unglamorous that we decided to look back at a time when it was an exciting adventure. Apparently the public recalls those good old skies as the latest television drama is the show Pan Am, recalling the 1960s glory days of that long defunct airline.

We found these pics of my grandma Martha Margetich in our archives taken in the late 1950s/early 60s. As you can see her trip back to her native Germany was a grand affair. From her first step out of her front porch, suitcase in hand, dressed to the nines, she is ready!

Can you believe travellers had their families snap pictures of them on the tarmac! Look how nicely everyone dressed up...and they even had an accordion player bidding them farewell.... Wow.

Somewhere I have some old airline menus showing how elegant flying was back then....the menu rivaled a gourmet restaurant....and does anyone recall those great little carry-on bags they used to provide you? The ones with the airline logo on them? Very cool. Of course these would never do today as people carry on bags bigger than what Grandma took to Germany as her check through luggage back in the day.....