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, 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!

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