If they’re lucky, most nursing home residents sing Christmas carols with a couple of karaoke wannabes.
Fairfield County residents get an annual show with Jose Feliciano and Bill Rother.
Feliciano, of course, is the musician who wrote and recorded “Feliz Navidad,” one of the 10 most popular Christmas songs of all time. (His version of “Light My Fire” also hit #3 on the American pop charts.)
Rother played guitar in the 1950s with the then-famous Fred Waring & his Pennsylvanians. They did lots of live television, including “Ed Sullivan”; they also performed at the White House for President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth.
When Feliciano moved to Weston — where Rother lived — they met through Mark Graham’s WMMM radio show. Rother was then in the midst of a 40-year career with Tauck Tours.
After Rother retired, Feliciano asked him to become his tour manager. Rother had no desire to get back on the road — he’d already seen over 100 countries — but the singer assured him there wouldn’t be much traveling.
In their first year together, they went around the world. Twice.
Some years ago, Feliciano’s mother-in-law was in the Wilton Meadows nursing home. He and Rother did a Christmas show there.
The residents had such a good time — and the duo enjoyed themselves so much — they’ve made it a holiday tradition of their own. Each year — very quietly, because they don’t want a lot of hoopla beforehand — they perform for area seniors.
This year they did shows at the Westport Health Care Center (formerly Mediplex), as well as nursing homes in Darien and Greenwich. Last week, they starred at the Assumption Church senior luncheon.
The senior citizens like the energetic, up-tempo Feliciano. But they love Rother.
“I play all of the old stuff, from World War II,” Rother says, with a playful jab at his friend. “I get a bigger hand than Jose.”