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, March 21, 2013

In Search of Andy Williams' Sweater

The Nostalgic Rambler is always in fashion wearing Perry Como-esque cardigan sweaters.  Although recently they have been easier to find, they were almost non existent in the stores until I set the fashion trend once again. 

Recently I've been watching the 1960s series "The Andy Williams Show." Andy wore these great V pattern sweaters, which I found out were made by a company called Parker of Vienna. They are the ultimate in cool! 
Donnie Osmond even had one

He wore all different colors on various shows, from yellow to blue to red, all with the similar V pattern design. This was probably to showcase the brand new NBC shows "in living color."

I wanted one of those sweaters to augment my Perry Como type cardigans. Now the problem. Since this was about 50 years ago, there is no more Parker of Vienna. Everyone that had those sweaters probably had them eaten by moths long ago. I can't ask Andy for one as he isn't around anymore. My wife to the rescue........she got out her knitting needles and made me one. Thanks Sweetie! 

And..........Here it is! Moon River anyone?

                    (From the show featuring guest star Henry Mancini --see him on the left?!)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Great American Songbook: Mitch Miller

Recently I read the biography of Tony Bennett called "Life is a Gift: The Zen Of Bennett." It was an interesting read but frustrating at times. Like many other singers of the 1950s, Tony didn't like working under Columbia Records A&R genius Mitch Miller. I use the word "genius" on purpose as Miller sure had the pulse of the public right as far as music in the 1950s is concerned. He shaped the careers of Johnny Mathis, Doris Day, Guy Mitchell and Rosemary Clooney to name a few. He picked a lot of the songs they recorded, including novelty tunes the public ate up as fast as he could release them.

 Even though this meant best selling records for many artists, many of the singers didn't like recording what they thought was drivel. Tony Bennett wanted to record jazz, not songs like "In the Middle of an Island"It was one of 1957's top sellers. Tony made a lot of people happy with his recordings of that era, but after reading his book it seems like he forgot what Columbia and Mitch did for his career. Would he have been as popular without those songs?

Other Columbia artists like Rosemary Clooney also complained bitterly for years about having to record those songs. She wanted to do jazz as well and later did so very successfully. That's great, but why always put down the popular music they sang earlier?

Jo Stafford (my favorite singer) was teamed with Frankie Laine by Mitch Miller. They recorded a lot of fun songs and some stinkers like Chow WillyWell, it is catchy but as Jo herself once said "Chow Willy?!"

The Mitch Miller legend went on for years, reaching its height in the 1960s with his very TV show "Sing Along With Mitch."  On that show the music was mostly of the early Tin Pan Alley or folk song days.

Tony Bennett wants to sing "The Great American Songbook." But what exactly is that? Everyone seems to have their own opinion and the collective amnesia about what popular music was in the 1940s and 50s seems to be brushed aside. I sometimes think I'm fighting a losing battle about all of this. In my mind "The Great American Songbook" includes popular music of the 1920s through 1950s and includes songs the public loved during those years.  Despite what Tony thinks, the public never embraced jazz as popular music. "In The Middle Of An Island" isn't jazz and Tony might not want to sing it anymore, but it IS a part of that great musical heritage of American Popular Music and The Nostalgic Rambler's version of the Great American Songbook (hey if everyone else seems to define it, so can I!).....

I have the first Johnny Mathis album before he was molded by Mitch and the Columbia folks. It isn't noteworthy.  Under Mitch Johnny Mathis recorded some great albums for Columbia...his best in my opinion.  After those successes he decided to pick his own stuff.  His success never matched those iconic years.

Doris Day had that great sound of the the happy 1950s. Mitch Miller once again.  

The first Nostalgic Rambler blog several years back was on Mitch Miller. I'm revisiting him today as I induct him into the Nostalgic Rambler Great American Songbook Hall Of Fame, despite what Rosemary, Tony, Jo and Johnny might have said about him.  Congrats Mitch! And we forgive you for Chow Willy....

Friday, March 8, 2013

Vic Damone: Singing Was The Easy Part

 As you probably know by now I'm a sucker for biographies on famous singers and just when I thought I probably read them all, here comes another one! Vic Damone is a pretty underrated singer today. In his heyday he was starring in his own television show and guesting on everyone else's. It looks like he has long since retired, although he does have a web presence. I think he even lives in Florida, like me --and his old buddy Perry Como did. (Can I come over for a visit Mr. Damone?!)
 The company he hung out with makes for a very fascinating read in his bio entitled "Singing Was The Easy Part." He stopped on elevator and auditioned for Perry Como (he named his son Perry after Como) . Frank Sinatra saved his life. He dated Jack Benny's daughter Joan. From his many marriages to his embracing of the Baha'i religion, the book is full of twists and turns and interesting anecdotes. The famed interviewer Larry King calls Vic a National Treasure. Larry says he wishes he could be Vic Damone...and as a crooner wannabe myself, I wish I could belt it out like he does!
 The Nostalgic Rambler recommends this book as well as the above CD for a good representation of his work.

Here are a few great Vic Damone clips for you. "On The Street Where You Live" and "Gigi" are signature tunes. Here are a few tv appearances: with Andy Williams and Bobby Darin (can you watch it without a smile on your face? Wow!) or here with Judy Garland and songs from West Side Story.