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 25, 2012

The Story of Christmas with Tennessee Ernie Ford

 Alright, alright, I know CHRISTmas isn't for several weeks but I want to give you this info so you can get a copy of it if you want to in time! The neighbors already have their CHRISTmas lights up, which drives me crazy. They are the ones that start taking everything down when December 25th arrives. By then they are sick of it all...

Anyhow,  in a time long long ago called the 1950s, record buyers had taste. So much so that they made this album a million seller:
Star Carol was one of the rare albums that sold that many back in the 1950s. The public snapped up several recordings Tennessee Ernie Ford made featuring Christian hymns.

In the 50s, Ford had a popular TV show. By the early 1960s Ernie Ford had gained enough stature in the industry for him to do whatever he wanted. His clout let him present a program entitled "The Story Of Christmas" on NBC, December 22, 1963. 
The hour long prime time show featured some unusual animation by Eyvind Earle and plenty of music by Ford and the Roger Wagner Chorale. Critics and audiences loved it.  

 Daily Variety said "The tape should be preserved and played back for years on end. It's brilliance will never be dimmed or excelled."  Unfortunately, the TV programmers have been dimmed and don't excel at much of anything anymore. Therefore a Christian based musical program isn't about to be seen on the network primetime agenda in 2012.

 Fortunately the master tape was found and released on dvd several years ago..........
 and the music from the special is still remembered enough that a cd was released.
Here are a few teaser clips I found on Youtube. Click here for a clip featuring the animation or if you want to see one of Ernie's records spinning around a nativity scene (!) click here

 I bought my copy of the show at www.ErnieFord.com.

December can be a hectic month so if I don't get to do another post, then Merry CHRISTmas to you all. Thanks so much for reading the ramblings of the Nostalgic Rambler!

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Christmas Story: revisited

 Back in 1983 when I was in college I remember going to the movies with my college roommate John to see a new movie called "A Christmas Story."  That was 29 years ago (!?). I don't remember much about the film. I was in my 20s then and recall something about a boy wanting a bb gun and a lamp that looked like a woman's leg. It didn't leave much of an impression on a young man.

Fast forward to today and I find out that this movie is now a cult classic favorite! Our local "Ocala Civic Theatre" (I don't like it when they call a theater a theatRE...but that's another subject) is putting on the stage version of the movie.

We went to see it and it really is a heartwarming story. Not only that, but it is set in the 1940s so you get plenty of Nostalgic Rambler type references including Ovaltine, Little Orphan Annie, radio shows, and during the intermission plenty of classic CHRISTmas music from Bing Crosby, The Andrews Sisters, and Kate Smith!

I never had a lamp that looks like a woman's leg. I did have a bb gun as a kid. 

If you live near Ocala, FL, the show runs through November 25, 2012. If you don't live here, rent the movie. I think I'll watch it again after 29 years.

Apparently this movie is so popular the home it was shot at in Cleveland is now a museum. I bet "Miracle on 34th Street" or "It's A Wonderful Life" doesn't even have THAT! 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dreams Come True In Blue Hawaii

 Aloha! The Nostalgic Rambler has been on vacation lately, therefore the lack of a new entry here. We are back from the Hawaiian Islands and were very enthralled by them.  Musically speaking people have been fascinated with the islands for years. Since I couldn't take you all with me, here is a bit of Hawaiian flavor tainted a bit from the mainland influences.

Back in 1959 Billy Vaughn recorded an album of Hawaiian songs called "Blue Hawaii" which has always been one of my favorites. Besides the exotic gal on the cover, he presented snappy saxophone laced renditions of such songs as "Aloha oe" and "My Little Grass Shack." The album sold 500,000 copies and stayed on the charts for almost a year.
 Perhaps the most famous Hawaiian artist of the Nostalgic Rambler era was Don Ho, who released his famed "Tiny Bubbles" in 1966. This one hit wonder lead to his own tv show and a years long audience love affair with his Hawaiian shows to which tourists streamed.
  Elvis is still strongly remembered for his "Blue Hawaii" which apparently was filmed in part at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Oahu. While we were there his presence was felt in the gift shop where you can even buy a replica of his Hawaiian shirt used in the movie.
 The ukelele has been a beloved sound of Hawaiian music for quite a while. It seems to be enjoying a resurgence lately. On our cruise ship trip I took several lessons and at our final performance the stage was packed with ukelele-ists!
Aloha everyone!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Visits with old stars via the genius of PunchyPlayers

        As usual, the Nostalgic Rambler can't relate to the "celebrities" on Entertainment Tonight or on the pics at the supermarket checkout. Most of the time I say myself "WHO is THAT?" Luckily there are some who still relate to the big stars of yesteryear. My latest find for you is a team of comic geniuses named Chris and Jeff from Dallas. They call themselves PunchyPlayers and their work is on Youtube. 

Imagine if Julie Andrews appeared with Julia Child? Through the magic of Jeff's vocal impersonations and Chris's video talents, you don't have to imagine it, you can SEE and HEAR it!
 What if the lovely Audrey Hepburn was your stewardess? Can you imagine her voice on the loudspeaker?
Judy Garland is another great subject they portray, including her and daughter Liza extolling the wonders of Cream of Wheat or going grocery shopping together with Judy having to sing advertising jingles throughout the store!

 Lucy and Desi also make an appearance on their Youtube page which is highly recommended. Click here and watch ALL their videos for a lot of fun.

With all the uninspired trash on TV these days, these two are a breath of fresh air. If I were I network exec I would snap up their talent and give them a weekly TV show.  By bringing back long gone celebrities in new twisted scenes, we could soon be enjoying episodes of  the new "I Love Lucy" with special guest star Judy Garland. Maybe they could even do a Perry Como show with special guest Jeff Borger (that's me in case you forgot....). 

Of course you'd probably encounter a legal nightmare ironing out all the rights to use this stuff, but if Forrest Gump could do it, so could the PunchyPlayers.

Here's a link to their Facebook page and here's a link to another rave review about this talented duo.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Suspense, radio's outstanding theater of thrills!

 Back in the 1970s I amassed quite a collection of what are now called "old radio shows" on cassette tape. Those old radio shows are now as much an antique as the cassettes they are recorded on! 

The hobby started when our local library introduced me to a vast archive of cassettes patrons could check out. I fell in love with the radio of the 1940s and 1950s. From the comedy shows of Jack Benny and Fred Allen to the mystery dramas of "Suspense", the talent of that time frame (before television came on the scene) will never be surpassed.

Recently I rummaged through an old box and pulled out those old cassettes. My wife has now been indoctrinated into "Radio's outstanding theater of thrills......SUSPENSE!"

"Suspense" was a radio drama where the "tale was well calculated to keep you in suspense..." in other words you were on the edge of your seat wondering what was coming next.

Many stars of the day appeared on "Suspense" including my beloved Lucille Ball.  Long before "I Love Lucy" she gets strangled in the episode entitled  "A Piece of Rope", she thinks she has witnessed a murder committed by co-star Desi Arnaz in "The Red Headed Woman" or she is so evil she is killed in "A Shroud for Sarah." 

"Suspense" was on the radio from 1942 until 1962. Quite a long run. You can easily find inexpensive access to "Suspense" shows by simply doing a search as they are readily available in mp3 format...or click on the Lucy episode titles listed above to listen via Youtube!

Sorry but today you won't find a bottle of Roma wine, "spelled are-oh-em-aye........" the then most popular wine in America and sponsor of "Suspense" for many years. Roma went the way of old time radio shows, but it is lots of fun to shut off the tv and let your mind create the picture.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Visit With Big Band Broadcaster Gene Martin

 My dad is always lamenting that none of his children took over his family business, a restaurant. My response is always "Why didn't you own a radio station? I would have taken it over right away!"  I still tell my wife I would buy one if I had the money.

  I enjoyed my years in the broadcasting biz and I've always been a broadcaster at heart, despite the fact that the industry has changed as much as popular music has over the years. 

  Up until a few years ago a friend of mine, Gene Martin, hosted a wildly popular radio show here in Central Florida called "Big Bands, Ballads and Blues." In its heyday thousands listened daily and Gene was literally mobbed at public events. Alas as radio station owners get younger, they could care less about that kind of music and the station became another satellite news feed a couple of years back. Did Gene Martin fade into oblivion? No way!
Gene Martin has always been quite the Renaissance man and reinvented himself once again. He took it upon himself to create an entire radio station on his own via the internet. He even resurrected my radio career as The Nostalgic Rambler Radio Show is heard on his network. You can hear my show as well as Gene and his other announcers by visiting www.TheGeneMartinShow.com or by clicking here.

 Recently I got to spend an evening with Gene and another one of his announcer/music experts George Samuels. He is still very much interested in keeping the big band sounds alive for folks to enjoy. He loves to talk about the bands and singers, so you know how much I loved that! Here's a pic of him appearing with The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. 
Here's the show lineup you can hear at TheGeneMartinShow.com:
 The Gene Martin Show AT 10 AM  &  3 PM. 

     CAFE’ SUNSHINE 12 PM DAILY starring Gene Martin
times are Eastern Time

Don Bruce's website is here.
Pete King's is a big band expert from the UK with a very complete and interesting website you will find here. It seems like the folks in Europe appreciate this music more than those in the colonies!

Here's a pic of George Samuels (Samuel's Serenade), Gene Martin, and yours truly.

I took this pic!  (left to right) my wife Heike, Gene, George, Gene's wife Ann, George's wife Harriet

Here's a final picture I thought was great! George showed us his new 3-D TV set. We were watching underwater footage and pictures from the moon. Gene asked if there were any 3-D shows of a big band concert. George said unfortunately there aren't any yet. Doesn't Gene look cool in his 3-D glasses?! 

I'm not sure how long Gene will keep his internet radio station going. It is a costly affair and a labor of love. Be sure to listen in and enjoy the great programming available to you worldwide on the internet.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Dean Martin Show is cool!

 Pardon me, but the Nostalgic Rambler has been a bit lazy in posting here lately. If I would ask you to guess what I've been doing, I don't think you would guess....I'm learning Norwegian! Why? I've always been fascinated with the country and thought it would be fun. Don't worry, I won't be posting in "norsk" any time soon...I can't even say "nostalgia" in Norwegian yet!

  Time now for a new posting that is the epitome of cool.  That was a legendary tv series called "The Dean Martin Show." I uncovered a whole bunch of old VHS tapes of this program recently. Flea markets can hardly sell VHS videos for more than 25 cents anymore so it's a great place to find old movies and such.

Dean's show was the brainchild of producer Greg Garrison. Dean was a major star at the time and didn't want to be bothered with rehearsal. He more or less just showed up on the taping night while Garrison and his staff rehearsed the rest of the crew and made up cue cards for Dean-o to read!  The show became show biz legendary.

  The broadcast featured Dean singing, of course, as well as showcasing the legendary talent of the time, with guests from John Wayne to Bob Hope. Comedian Jonathan Winters would often break Dean up. No one knew what he would do on stage including the director.

Dean with Jonathan Winters
 Dean's relaxed image came off on the screen and that was perhaps what makes the show so charming today. TV today is so polished. It has to be perfect. Dean's show was perfect, simply because it wasn't perfect. It was just a guy singing and presenting a fun hour for his audience. He never took himself too seriously. After singing most of the songs, he usually starts applauding himself and then mocking it by saying something "Oh, can that boy sing..." or something along those lines.

Dean and "The First Lady Of Song" Miss Ella Fitzgerald

 You can find these Dean Martin Variety Shows everywhere on line. They are obviously also on dvd now. Producer Greg Garrison re-edited the shows several years back and the cream of the crop is available in re-mastered form.  Garrison was a broadcasting genius. Unfortunately, just like Dean, he is no longer with us either. He died in 2005. Too bad other big stars of that era don't have their material available for today's audiences. (Calling the kids of Perry Como, come in please!)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Song Of The Open Road by Paul Weston & Jo Stafford

 As you regular "Nostalgic Rambler" blog readers know, my favorite reads are biographies of my favorite stars. Jo Stafford is my favorite singer and her bandleader/arranger genius husband Paul Weston has fascinated me as well. Unfortunately they never wrote a biography on their lives....or did they?

Apparently back in 1979 and 1980 they started on the project but it never saw the light of day as publishers said the incidents happened too long ago and their stories didn't have enough juicy gossip to entertain the masses. Sounds like the banner of the Nostalgic Rambler!
 Jo and Paul are gone now. They donated their archives to the University of Arizona. You can visit their on-line webpage and see the massive collection that is on file there as well as read some background about the Westons. The archive curator is a guy named Keith Pawlak. I wouldn't mind having his job as he has free access to all of this one of a kind material. Perhaps one day I will be able to visit.

With the cooperation of Jo Stafford and Paul Weston's children, Pawlak has now re-assembled the long lost biography and published it under the title "Song Of The Open Road, An Autobiography & Other Writings by Paul Weston and Jo Stafford." It's available from the publisher Bear Manor Media.
 The book has several sections to it. First we have a captivating look at the "Big Band Era" including what it was like to travel with Tommy Dorsey on a bus. This is not a Hollywood watered down version and is great fun. Can you imagine Tommy not letting the bus stop for a pee break and a guy getting his, well, you know what, caught in a beer can?!

Next is a great look into the 1940s personal lives of Jo and Paul as we are voyeurs peering at their love letters and personal correspondence. I just eat this sort of stuff up as I read about the recording sessions, radio shows, and stars the two hobnobbed with.
 The book has some essays about the music biz that Paul Weston wrote and also has a chapter explaining how Mr. Pawlak assembled the book, which wasn't an easy task.
It's unfortunate that the book was never finished back when the Westons were alive. A skeleton outline is presented about what might have been. It would have been great to read more about the stars they recorded with, the songwriters, the radio and tv shows. The Mitch Miller connection would have been fascinating I'm sure. And what about the later years when Jo more or less retired from singing? When she regained her record library and started Corinthian Records? Pawlak could have done a lot more research to flush out the missing stories...but then he calls himself merely "editor", letting the writings of Paul and Jo speak for themselves. And those writings were never completed.

Despite the fact that this book is not the complete story, it is highly recommended as an insiders' look at the music biz, the big band era, and radio in the early days.  Back in 1979 no one wanted this book. I'm grateful that we have other publishers now such as Bear Manor Media who can bring these manuscripts to life. It allowed me to spend several hours with two people I admire and what fun it was.....

You can order the book here, and tell 'em The Nostalgic Rambler sentcha!

Don't forget to listen to my radio show where nary a week goes by without a Jo Stafford song....Saturday or Sunday at 1 pm EST at www.TheGeneMartinShow.com. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Saturday Night with Ice Skating Star Sonja Henie

     Lately our Saturday night entertainment consists of watching "Me TV", a station that plays old tv shows including Lost In Space and Star Trek. It's light fun watching the antics of Dr. "oh the pain" Smith and Captain Kirk.

   A few weeks ago we came out of our 1960s time warp to visit our friends who have Netflix. We were amazed at the number of movies that were at their fingertips. I was even more amazed when they all agreed to go back to 1945 for a Sonja Henie movie called "It's A Pleasure."  You can watch it on Youtube here.   I think Kolby slept through most of it, but the rest of the family was entertained.
 Sonja Henie was a three time Olympic champion ice skater from Norway who dazzled the entertainment world with her charming personality and spectacular ice skating.  Can you imagine an ice skater being one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood? Maybe not now, but in Sonja Henie's day she was it. Not only did she rake it in at the studios, she also put together dazzling ice shows at places like Rockefeller Center in NY. She brought in millions (of dollars and probably fans) with her shows, movies and tie ins like Sonja Henie dolls.
 The movie was entertaining to watch (despite what Kolby says) and although it is dated, the clothes and stylings still ooze class. I can imagine going to the theater in 1945 to watch Miss Henie. Unfortunately like so many other stars she wasn't as friendly as she appeared on the screen. She was obsessed with money and sex. She also alienated Norwegians for her rumored friendship with Hitler.
Several years ago I was lucky enough to visit The Sonja Henie museum in Oslo, Norway. I am fascinated with Norway and the museum was one of the highlights of my visit there...I say one of the highlights as there is SO much to see and do in Norway, but we'll save that for another time and place! Visit the museum's internet page for some bio info about Sonja and her great art and memorabilia museum.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Jeannie Out Of The Bottle

    I was amused and bemused that someone named Tiffany M. did a blog posting about The Nostalgic Rambler. I guess that means I'm famous now. Cool.  The blog entry featured a pic of a young Elvis. Perry Como would have been more appropriate but that's ok. Elvis looks like the sex symbol I could only hope to be. Tiffany M. psychoanalyzed me which was great fun to read about. She said I have a "Ubiquitous voice." Is that a good thing? According to my Webster's,  ubiquitous means "everywhere at the same time." Sounds like a world of clones to me. Well, as long as they are interested in what I'm interested in, we'll get along. To quote Miss Tiffany (as she writes about me) my "idea of a Golden Era is crippling him and his life in the present day." Actually Tiffany, it's the other way around. Life in my "Golden Era" is fun, it's the rest of the world that is (to quote my dearly departed grandpa) "nutty as a fruitcake." Anyhow Tiffany thanks so much for your blog. You made my day. Sorry it took me four months to discover it, but I'm so glad you enjoy my non pedantic eloquence. As Morticia Addams of the "Addams Family" would say "Isn't that sweet?!"


And now on to another Nostalgic Rambler rambling......

I have discovered the fun of listening to audio books of some of the great stars of the past. Bob Barker reading his biography about his fascinating career was excellent. After watching him for years on "Truth or Consequences" or "The Price Is Right," it was like spending several hours with an old friend telling us about his life.  The most recent audio bio I've listened to is one by another friend we spent hours of television viewing with, "Jeannie" aka Barbara Eden.

 Barbara still seems to be "our kind of people." She is truly down to earth despite her Jeannie counterpart that was out of this one. As always life isn't fair and her share of sadness was doled out in dollops. She shares her ups and downs in her book and hearing her tell the story really makes it all the more personal. You almost shed a tear when she tells about her loser husbands and losing her beloved son to drugs.

 Her on the set memories of "I Dream of Jeannie" were a riot. Larry Hagman who became a big star with "Dallas" always played second fiddle to Barbara and his on set shenanigans were hard to believe and amusing at the same time. Can you imagine peeing on the set or throwing up on if you didn't get your own way? The actor who played Dr. Bellows apparently was the only one who could control Larry.

Barbara also shed some light on her guest appearance with Lucy and Desi on "I Love Lucy." Lucy was a generous memorable woman. Desi on the other hand made Barbara run for the dressing room whenever she saw him. He was memorable for the wrong reasons. 

Barbara does a lot of "Jeannie Blinks" as she calls them in the book, going from one various memory to another. It works so well I wonder if The Nostalgic Rambler could do a "Jeannie Blink." We'd blink Barbara over for lunch. I'm sure she'd be great fun to meet in person.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My Life With Cary Grant by Dyan Cannon

 Biographies have always been high on my reading list. It never ceases to amaze me how the people who seemingly have everything in their lives...from money to fame to beautiful families, most always seem to "louse it all up" . ("Louse it up." When was the last time you heard that outdated phrase?!)
I highly recommend a relatively new read, "Dear Cary" by Dyan Cannon. Cannon was married to Cary Grant after a lengthy courtship/relationship. It is intriguing to read how Cary saw her on a tv show and pursued her until she fell in love with him.
 The old studio system really protected the images of their stars. Today you still hear people say they "don't make them like that anymore." That is only partially true as Cary Grant was certainly a manufactured star and he had a lot of character flaws. One was attracting wives and then driving them away. Did you know Cary Grant's mom was locked away for years and he didn't even know it?  Did you know he was into using LSD?!
 He more or less insisted that Dyan try the drug or their marriage would fail. It failed anyhow and Dyan ended up in a mental hospital after having a nervous breakdown!
The book is a great look into the private life of a guy that oozed class onto the movie screen but in real life was a skeleton in his own closet (isn't that a clever line!?).

Dyan Cannon has long since gotten over her life with Cary Grant and has gone on to lots of interesting things in her show biz life. This book is an easy and fascinating read on one of our legendary favorites.