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

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Singer Gisele MacKenzie, 1950s star with class

I often wonder if today's TV personalities will be remembered. Probably not when the Nostalgic Rambler can recall many very talented stars who once dominated entertainment but are now distant memory.

Take Gisele MacKenzie for example. She was a singing sensation for years as she guested on everyone's TV show, from Ed Sullivan to Tennessee Ernie Ford.

Comedian Jack Benny was in awe of Gisele, not only for her singing talents but her violin abilities. He showcased her on one of his shows which led to her long term gig on "Your Hit Parade." Several years later she headlined her own "Gisele MacKenzie Show." Click here or here. Here is a clip of her with pianist Roger Willams (see the recent blog I did on this great piano man). Oddly enough these shows are now on Youtube through a friend of Gisele's who said MacKenzie had her whole series on film, archived and in her garage getting ruined by the California heat!

After seeing her on a Jack Benny rerun several years ago, I found one of her RCA record lps (pic above--dontcha love those earrings?) in a thrift shop. Collector's Choice released a cd of her recordings which is about the only collection available and highly recommended.

Gisele was a Canadian but eventually obtained her American citizenship. She died in 2003 but apparently was still working theater and concerts in her later years.

As you can see from the pics, she was on the cover of TV Guide, kids used to play with her paper cutout dolls, and she was seen by millions every week. Nice to bring her back in the spotlight this time on the Nostalgic Rambler Blog.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Steve Allen, Mr. Versatility

If I would choose an entertainment legend to emulate, it would be Steve Allen. This man was the ultimate in talent. He was the one who started the legendary tv show "Tonight". He published 54 books, wrote 8,500 songs (!), recorded multiple albums as a pianist, and was married to the beautiful Jayne Meadows. Not too long ago he was featured on a stamp (which is pictured here).

He passed away in 2000, but before that gave several concerts here in Florida. I was lucky enough to attend two of them.
His piano playing was very much easy listening style and the audiences loved it. His wit was always refreshing. I loved it when he said that the more "modern" songs are just as lovely as the older ones. He said he would recite some lyrics to prove his point. He then proceeded to play "Glory Glory Hallelujah" on the piano as he recited "Hot stuff, baby....I want some hot stuff baby....tonight......." with all the appropriate pauses that would make Jack Benny proud. Apparently he had been doing this satirical shtick for years...Here's a clip from the 1950s!

Here's one of the clever songs he wrote in the 1950s for the McGuire Sisters, a novelty tune called Banana Split. I dare you to listen and not smile! Here's another song "The Gravy Waltz" you might get a kick out of!

Here are a few clips of his television appearances. Click here for a black a white classic and here for a cool color show from 1960 (wait until you see his convertible...wow...1960 Plymouth Fury).

For more info on this multi talented icon, visit his website by clicking here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mr Piano, Roger Williams

Pianists are amazing talents. I love to sing and I just open my mouth to do that. I can plunk out a few songs on our piano, but I'm at awe when I watch and listen to a pianist who really knows the craft. One of my favorites is Roger Williams.

Roger Williams rose to fame in the 1950s with his rendition of "Autumn Leaves". Lots of other beautiful songs followed. Here are a few: "Almost Paradise" "Til" (so very haunting!) and "Somewhere In Time" (from the Christopher Reeve movie filmed on Mackinac Island, MI).

He's played for eight presidents... And he is still around! The sad and latest word is that at 86, Roger is battling pancreatic cancer and the treatment side effects. A friend has requested us to keep him in our thoughts and prayers.

An interesting insight into the man behind the music is found in an on line video interview. What does he think about rap music? Music in today's school system? Did you know his dad was a professional boxer and didn't want him to be a sissy, so he learned how to box as a kid, too. He eventually found out that the piano actually drew the women to him! Click here for the interview.

Roger has several new cd projects in the works. Varese Sarabande Records will release "The Man Called Mr Piano" on July 19th of this year.

His website is: www.mrpianotoday.com.