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Friday, March 20, 2009

Mr. Music — Berl Olswanger

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2009 at 2:18 PM

3d3d/1241751465-berlolswangerad-1963.jpg In the March issue of Memphis magazine, I tell the compelling story of Berl Olswanger, a remarkably talented gentleman — musician, composer, music store owner, teacher, talent agent, and so much more. I’m not going to repeat that entire story here, so don’t get your hopes up. You’ll just have to pick up a copy of our March issue, or read it online. And if you’re not a subscriber, then I don’t want to hear about it.

All I wanted to do here was share a couple of old advertisements I found for Berl Olswanger (taken from 1960s Key magazines, I believe), which focused on his music school and his talent agency. The music school on Union Avenue (promoted above) could teach you either the “traditional” or “easy” way — which I suppose means the traditional way was hard. And just look at all the instruments you could learn, including the “uke” — which was, of course, hepcat jive talk for that super-cool instrument that always attracted the ladies — the ukelele.

The other ad (below) mentioned some of the very interesting talent that Berl could provide for your parties. “Olswanger’s Dixieland Band” seemed like a pretty safe choice, but I’m not sure what to expect from “Ichabod the Funny Magician.” And I’m sorry, but I think “Smiley the Children’s Clown Magician” would induce nightmares in any child. Maybe not at the time, but years later. You’ll also notice that, for a fee, Berl could provide dancers (even, based on the illustration, hula girls!), pianists, organists, and something or somebody called “strollers.”

In my modest fashion, I can’t say I possess many talents — not anything that a decent person would pay money for, I mean — but I’m pretty confident that I would make a darned good stroller at any party.


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