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, January 30, 2011

Doin' The Bing

Christmas is over now and the constant playing of Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" is in the archives for another year.

Too bad the rest of Bing's vast recording legacy is neglected. Recently Bing's estate/family decided it was time to attend to Bing's recordings and are trying to get some more public awareness for them. Good news!

From the depression, through World War Two, from radio, television, and the movies, Bing was an international icon. It is hard to believe how much he has faded from the public memory (except for that Christmas record!)

The book above "Bing Crosby: Pocketful of Dreams" only covers his career up until 1940 and it's almost 700 pages long! It's one of my favorite biographies as it is chock full of interesting stories about this American legend.

I'm not going to list a whole bunch of Bing movies and recordings you should try to listen to, as they are easy enough to find via an internet search. I do want to share this cool clip released by Bing's archives. Click here. It's called "Doin' the Bing" which we need to be doing more of as he is Mr. Music (a title incidentally of a great Bing movie).

pics of Bing include one with Perry Como, who idolized Bing

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Well! Jack Benny

One of my favorite comedians since my youth is Jack Benny. Recently our PBS station started running some of his 1960s tv shows and it was great seeing them in their pristine condition.

Benny had quite a career, spanning vaudeville, radio, film and television. He lived next door to Lucille Ball in Beverly Hills and they were good friends. Jack had a great sense of humor and once he wandered into Lucy's house while she was having dinner, played his signature violin and sauntered back out without saying a word.

I've read many bios of Jack through the years and am always in wonder of those innocent Hollywood years. Both Jack and Lucy's homes were right on Roxbury street, very easily accessible to the fans. Jack's daughter Joan once wrote that people would simply knock on the door and they would hand out autographs! Those days are gone forever.

Years ago I visited Beverly Hills and snapped a pic of Jack and Lucy's mansions. Across the street was Jimmy Stewart's place. The UPS man went up to Jimmy's front door and an elderly lady opened it. Perhaps it was Gloria Stewart?!

I was introduced to Jack Benny through his old 1940s/50s radio shows when I was a kid. Our local library offered cassette tapes of his programs. It was like visiting with family every week as his show ensemble had so many memorable characters, from his butler Rochester to his announcer Don Wilson.

There is a wealth of Benny info at www.jackbenny.org. Radio and tv programs are available there. You can find lots of show clips on Youtube as well. I even found a treasure trove of Benny material at Wal Mart not too long ago....a dvd collection of not only his comedy shows but appearances in dramas in the 1950s. Unfortunately I've never seen an official release of any of his television shows. I guess they just don't think there would be enough demand. Sad.

We will never see the likes of another Jack Benny. His comedy was unique and couldn't be copied by anyone else.

pics of Jack Benny above include a postcard of his home, one of his appearance on The Lawrence Welk Show, and with his neighbor the iconic Lucille Ball.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Moonlight in Vermont with Margaret Whiting

Funny. I was thinking about doing a blog entry about Margaret Whiting, one of the last of the great singers. This past week she died at age 86.

Of course once again the news media of today simply ignored it. Even though I had intended on posting this salute to a living legend now it will become a tribute.

Margaret's quintessential song is "Moonlight In Vermont", a song with such beautiful lyrics it really is poetry. She was so young when she recorded it she didn't really even understand what the lyrics were talking about as she said she had never even been to Vermont. The song has always been one of my favorites. Click here for a link to the song on Youtube.

She recorded plenty of music, including the novelty songs that were so well received back in the 40s and 50s. A duet she did with Jimmy Wakely was one of the most popular country songs of the day. Listen here. As corny as it still is, it still is catchy!

Back in the 1950s Margaret had a connection to the iconic Desilu studios as she starred in a summer replacement show for "I Love Lucy" called "Those Whiting Girls." I found a rare clip here of that show (you might recognize the Desilu announcer....he's the same one that says "And Now...I Love Lucy..." or "It's The Lucy Show!").

Whiting sang well into her senior years, touring around the country. She married gay film star Jack Wrangler who was 22 years younger than she was. He came up with a broadway show for her -- a tribute to her mentor, the musical genius Johnny Mercer.

When I asked several friends and coworkers this week, no one seemed to recall Miss Whiting or her music. Sad. If you saw the movie "Julie and Julia", you might have heard Whiting's rendition of "Time After Time." Lovely.

"Moonlight in Vermont" is such a great tune and Whiting had a charming personality. Once again the Nostalgic Rambler is glad to be able to bring this lady into the spotlight again this week.

pics above of Whiting and her husband

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Harmony of the Four Lads

There were a lot of 1950s pop music quartets. The male ones alone included The Four Freshmen, The Four Aces and my personal favorites The Four Lads. During the 1950s pop quartet heyday, my mom was a member of the Columbia Record Club. That meant that she bought many of the albums that paved the way for my childhood listening experience. The Four Lads Greatest Hits on Columbia was an album I listened to over and over.

The Four Lads, Frankie Busseri, Bernie Toorish, Jimmie Arnold, and Connie Codarini, started out together at Toronto's St. Michael's Cathederal Choir school. Eventually they were finally "discovered" and made their way into pop icon history. They had hits such as "Standing on the Corner (watching all the girls go by!....)", "Moments To Remember", "No Not Much", and "Istanbul." (click on the titles to hear the songs via Youtube). They did background singing for Johnny Ray, Frankie Laine and Doris Day.

According to one of their albums "The Four Lads have scores of thousands of admirers, many of them teenagers, who are organized into Four Lads Fan Clubs all over the world. Fan mail comes from 27 different countries, including Turkey, Israel, Pakistan and Siam."

Back in the 1980s when I was in Detroit, the "original" Four Lads were touring. I eagerly went to the concert, but the guys who were appearing didn't look like anyone on my old album covers! When I asked about this during the intermission, one of the singers said "some personnel changes had occured through the years."

As time marches on and the original members have died or retired, these "phony Four Lads" (as I call them) are still around keeping the sounds of the truly original group alive.

I have started the Four Lads Appreciation Society on Facebook. I don't imagine there are still Four Lads fanclubs in 27 countries, but they certainly still sound as good as they did in their 1950s heyday to me....and if they keep having "personnel changes" who knows? Maybe I'll be a Four Lad crooning "Standing On The Corner Watching All The Girls Go By" someday!