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Perry Como 1912-2001
 


Country : Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
Profession : Singer
Date of birth : 1912-05-18
Date of death : 2001-05-12
Cause of Death : Alzheimer's

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perry-como

Pierino "Perry" Como (May 18, 1912 – May 12, 2001) was an American singer and television personality. During a career spanning more than half a century he recorded exclusively for the RCA Victor label after signing with it in 1943. "Mr. C", as he was nicknamed, sold millions of records for RCA and pioneered a weekly musical variety television show, which set the standards for the genre and proved to be one of the most successful in television history. His combined success on television and popular recordings was not matched by any other artist of the time.

A popular television performer and recording artist, Perry Como produced numerous hit records with record sales so high the label literally stopped counting at Como's behest. His weekly television hobo and seasonal specials were broadcast throughout the world and his popularity seemingly had no geographical or language boundaries. He was equally at ease in live performance and in the confines of a recording studio. His appeal spanned generations and he was widely respected for both his professional standards and the conduct in his personal life. In the official RCA Records Billboard Magazine memorial, his life was summed up in these few words: "50 years of music and a life well lived. An example to all."

 

Perry Como received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1987, and was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006.

Personal life

Como, an Italian American, was born the seventh son of a seventh son in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, 20 miles south of Pittsburgh, seventh of the 13 children of Pietro Como and Lucia Travaglini, who both immigrated to the US in 1900 from the abruzzese town of Palena. He was a Roman Catholic. His father was an amateur baritone, and had all his children attend music lessons even if he could barely afford them. Young Perry started to help his family at age 10 by helping in Steve Fragapane's barber shop for 50¢ a week. Although he always liked to sing, and had shown his early musical talent in his teenage years as a trombone player in the town's brass band and as organist in the local church, his first great ambition was to be the best barber in Canonsburg. After graduation from high school, he opened his own barber shop. In 1933, he married his teenage sweetheart, Roselle Belline, whom he had met at a picnic in 1929 when he was just 17. They raised three children. In 1993, he was successfully treated for bladder cancer. Perry and Roselle remained married until her death in August 1998 at age 84. Como was reportedly devastated by her passing.

Professional singer

In 1933 Como joined Freddy Carlone's band in Ohio, and three years later moved up to Ted Weems' Orchestra and his first recording dates. Their first recording was a novelty tune called "You Can't Pull the Wool Over My Eyes", recorded for the Decca Records label.

In 1942 Weems dissolved his band, and Como went on to CBS, where he sang for a couple of years without any conspicuous success. By this time the erstwhile barber had decided to return to Canonsburg, his family, and his barbering. Just as he was about to abandon his singing career once and for all, two NBC producers stepped in, returning him to show business for the NBC radio program Chesterfield Supper Club. Later he became a very successful performer in theater and nightclub engagements.

In 1945, Como recorded the pop ballad "Till the End of Time" (based on Chopin's "Heroic Polonaise"), which marked the beginning of a highly successful career. Como was the first artist to have ten records sell more than one million copies. Similarly, his television show achieved a much higher rating than that of any other vocalist to date.

On March 14, 1958, the RIAA certified Como's hit single, "Catch a Falling Star" as its first ever Gold Record. "Catch a Falling Star" was written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss. The pair were also responsible for penning "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." [2] Como won the 1958 Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, male for "Catch a Falling Star." His final Top 40 hit was a cover of Don McLean's "And I Love You So", recorded in 1973.

He recorded many albums of songs for the RCA Victor label between 1952 and 1987, and is credited with numerous gold records. Como had so many recordings achieve gold-record status that he refused to have many of them certified. It was this characteristic which made him so different from his peers, and which endeared him to legions of fans throughout the world. Over the decades, Como is reported to have sold millions of records, but he commonly suppressed these figures.

By the 1980s, the atmosphere of recording had changed dramatically from his early days at RCA Victor. Como's recording sessions had previously been filled with laughter and joy. In his 1959 recording of "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town", listeners with headphones can hear him burst into laughter during one orchestra passage. But in later years, the sessions deteriorated into much more sombre occasions. For this reason, he walked away from his final studio-produced recordings in the early 1980s. He returned to record a final album for RCA with his trusted friend and associate Nick Perito in 1987. His recording of "The Wind Beneath My Wings" was almost autobiographical, a fitting end to a long and successful recording career. Como recorded only once more, in 1994, privately, for his well-known Christmas Concert in Ireland.

Como received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.

Perry Como was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2007.

Vocal characteristics

Perry Como modelled his voice and style after Bing Crosby as most male singers of the 1930s and 1940s did. Perry Como's voice is widely known for its good-natured vocal acrobatics as portrayed in his highly popular novelty songs such as "Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)". But there was another side to Perry Como described by music critic Gene Lees in his sleeve note to Como's 1968 album "Look To Your Heart":

Despite his immense popularity, Como is rarely given credit for what, once you stop and think of it, he so clearly is: one of the great singers and one of the great artists of our time. Perhaps the reason people rarely talk about his formidable attributes as a singer is that he makes so little fuss about them. That celebrated ease of his has been too little understood. Ease in any art is the result of mastery over the details of the craft. You get them together to the point where you can forget about how you do things and concentrate on what you are doing. Como got them together so completely that the muscles don’t even show. It seems effortless, but a good deal of effort has gone into making it seem so. Como is known to be meticulous about rehearsal of the material for an album. He tries things out in different keys, gives the song thought, makes suggestions, tries it again, and again, until he is satisfied. The hidden work makes him look like Mr. Casual, and too many people are taken in by it — but happily so. I have of necessity given a good deal of thought and study to the art of singing, and Como's work consistently astonishes me. He is a fantastic technician. Listen in this album to the perfection of his intonation, the beauty of the sound he produces, the constant comfortable breath control. And take notice of his high notes. Laymen are often impressed by the high note you can hear for five blocks. Professionals know that it is far more difficult to hit a high note quietly. Como lights on a C or D at the top of a tune as softly as a bird on a branch, not even shaking it. And then there's his phrasing. A number of our best singers phrase well. The usual technique is to rethink the lyrics of a song to see how they would come out if you were saying them, and then approximate in singing the normal speech inflections and rhythms. This often involves altering the melody, but it is a legitimate practice and when done well can be quite striking. But Como is beyond that. He apparently does not find it necessary to change the melodic line in order to infuse a song with emotion. A great jazz trumpeter once told me, "After fifteen years of playing, I’ve come to the conclusion that the hardest thing to do is to play melody, play it straight and get feeling into it." Como has been doing this from the beginning. Stylistically, he comes out of the Bing Crosby-Russ Colombo school. That was all a long time ago. Como has been his own man for many years now. He sounds like nobody else. And nobody sounds like him, either. He is hard to imitate precisely because his work is so free of tricks and gimmicks. There are no mannerisms for another singer to pick up from him. All one can do is try to sing as well and as honestly as Como, and any singer who does that will end up sounding like himself, not Como.

Perry Como's greatest hit was "Till the End of Time." In a late 20th century interview with broadcaster Eddie Hubbard, Como noted that his best-selling record (despite its comparatively low chart position) was "Ave Maria."

Television

Perry Como made the move to television when NBC televised the Chesterfield Supper Club radio program on December 24, 1948. In 1950, he moved to CBS and the show's title was changed to The Perry Como Show. Como hosted this 15 minute musical variety series on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, immediately following the CBS Television News. The Faye Emerson Show was broadcast in the same time slot on Tuesday and Thursday.

Como's 15-minute television show continued through the early 1950s until he moved back to NBC in 1955 on Saturdays, extended to an hour long. On September 15, 1956, the season premiere of The Perry Como Show was broadcast from NBC's new color television studios at the New York Ziegfeld Theatre, making it one of the first weekly color TV shows. In 1959, Como moved to Wednesday night, hosting the Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall for the next five years.

Como became the highest-paid performer in the history of television to that date, earning mention in the Guinness Book of World Records. Prior to this, Como competed with Jackie Gleason in what was billed the "Battle of the Giants", and won. This is now rarely mentioned, in part because Como commonly downplayed his own achievements.

Como had numerous Christmas television specials, beginning on Christmas Eve 1948, and continuing to 1994, when his final Christmas special was recorded in Ireland. After his weekly TV series ended in 1963, Como's television specials became bi-monthly, then monthly, and were finally limited to seasonal specials celebrating Easter, Spring, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, ending in 1987. They were recorded from many parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, Rome, Austria, France, and many locations throughout North America. Como's Christmas concert in Ireland was his final special, and the last of his commercial recordings.

A farewell concert from Ireland

In January 1994, Como travelled to Dublin, Ireland, for what would be an auspicious moment in his long career of more than sixty years. 1993 would have marked his fiftieth anniversary with the RCA Victor label as well as his forty-fifth year of television specials celebrating Christmas and its importance throughout the world to people of all faiths. Como's Irish Christmas was produced for the American PBS television network and despite Como looking aged and unwell, has been re-broadcast annually since 1994. At the show's conclusion, Como apologized to his Dublin audience for a performance he felt was not up to his usual standards.

During his visit to Dublin, Perry Como visited an old barber shop called The Como on Thomas Street. The owners of the shop who were lifelong fans of Perry Como and named their business in his honor, had sent photographs of the shop and letters to Como inviting him to visit, then astoundingly he did. Photos taken on the day of Perry Como with the barbers were framed around the shop. The Como closed its doors for good in 2002 but it remains a household name in The Liberties.

Death

Como died in his sleep on May 12, 2001 at his home in Jupiter Inlet Colony, Florida, six days before his eighty-ninth birthday. He was reported to have suffered from symptoms of Alzheimer's disease during the final two years of his life. His Funeral Mass took place at St. Edward's Catholic Church in Palm Beach, Florida.

Long Play Albums ~ RCA Victor 10"

  • 1951 Perry Como Sings Merry Christmas Music
  • 1952 TV Favorites
  • 1952 A Sentimental Date with Perry
  • 1952 Supper Club Favorites
  • 1953 Hits from Broadway Shows
  • 1953 Around the Christmas Tree
  • 1953 I Believe ~ Songs of All Faiths Sung by Perry Como
  • 1954 Como's Golden Records

Long Play Albums ~ RCA Victor 12"

  • 1955 So Smooth
  • 1956 I Believe
  • 1956 Relaxing with Perry Como
  • 1956 Perry Como Sings Hits from Broadway Shows
  • 1956 A Sentimental Date with Perry Como
  • 1956 Perry Como Sings Merry Christmas Music
  • 1957 We Get Letters
  • 1958 Saturday Night With Mr. C
  • 1958 When You Come To The End Of The Day
  • 1958 Como's Golden Records
  • 1959 Como Swings
  • 1959 Season's Greetings From Perry Como
  • 1961 For The Young At Heart
  • 1961 Sing to Me, Mr. C
  • 1962 By Request
  • 1962 The Best Of Irving Berlin's Songs From Mr. President
  • 1963 Perry at His Best
  • 1963 The Songs I Love
  • 1965 The Scene Changes ~ Perry Goes to Nashville
  • 1966 Lightly Latin
  • 1966 Perry Como In Italy
  • 1968 The Perry Como Christmas Album
  • 1968 Look to Your Heart
  • 1969 Seattle
  • 1970 Perry Como In Person at the International Hotel, Las Vegas
  • 1970 This is Perry Como
  • 1970 It's Impossible
  • 1971 I Think of You
  • 1972 This is Perry Como Vol. 2
  • 1973 And I Love You So
  • 1974 Perry ~ The Way We Were
  • 1975 Just Out Of Reach
  • 1976 Perry Como: A Legendary Performer
  • 1977 The Best Of British
  • 1978 Where You're Concerned
  • 1980 Perry Como ~ The Colors of My Life
  • 1981 Perry Como: Live On Tour
  • 1982 I Wish It Could Be Christmas Forever
  • 1983 So It Goes ~ Goodbye For Now
  • 1987 Perry Como Today ~ The Wind Beneath My Wings
  • 1993 Yesterday & Today: A Celebration In Song (RCA Victor Box Set)

Long Play Albums ~ RCA Camden 12"

  • 1957 Dream Along With Me
  • 1958 Perry Como Sings Just For You
  • 1959 Perry Como's Wednesday Night Music Hall
  • 1960 Dreamer's Holiday
  • 1961 Perry Como Sings Merry Christmas Music
  • 1962 Make Someone Happy
  • 1963 An Evening With Perry Como
  • 1964 Love Makes The World Go 'Round
  • 1965 Somebody Loves Me
  • 1966 No Other Love
  • 1967 Hello Young Lovers
  • 1968 You Are Never Far Away
  • 1969 The Lord's Prayer
  • 1970 Easy Listening
  • 1971 Door Of Dreams
  • 1972 The Shadow Of Your Smile
  • 1973 Dream On Little Dreamer
  • 1974 The Sweetest Sounds

Selected Compilation Albums

  • 1953 Perry Como Sings ~ Evergreens By Perry Como
  • 1975 The First Thirty Years
  • 1975 Perry Como - Superstar
  • 1975 Perry Como ~ Napoleon NLP-11090
  • 1976 This Is Perry Como ~ For The US Army Reserve
  • 1979 1940-41 Broadcast Recordings (Ted Weems & His Orchestra Featuring Perry Como And Elmo Tanner)
  • 1981 Young Perry Como
  • 1982 Collector's Items
  • 1983 Christmas With Perry Como
  • 1984 The Young Perry Como With Ted Weems & His Orchestra (1936-1941)
  • 1984 Perry Como ~ Book Of The Month Club Box Set
  • 1984 Crosby & Como ~ A Limited Collector's Edition
  • 1986 The Best Of Times
  • 1988 Jukebox Baby
  • 1995 World Of Dreams ~ A Collection Of Rarities & Collectors Items
  • 1995 The Perry Como Shows: 1943 ~ Volume 1
  • 1995 The Perry Como Shows: 1943 ~ Volume 2
  • 1995 The Perry Como Shows: 1943 ~ Volume 3
  • 1997 Perry Como: V-Disc Armed Forces Program ~ A Musical Contribution By America's Best For Our Armed Forces Overseas
  • 1998 The Long Lost Hits Of Perry Como
  • 1998 Perry-Go-Round
  • 1999 The Essential 60's Singles Collection
  • 1999 Greatest Hits
  • 1999 I Want To Thank You Folks
  • 1999 Class Will Tell ~ Perry Como With Ted Weems & His Orchestra
  • 1999 Greatest Christmas Songs
  • 2000 The Very Best Of Perry Como (BMG)
  • 2001 Perry Como Sings Songs Of Faith & Inspiration (Buddha Records ~ Special Limited Edition - 2 CD Set)
  • 2001 A Perry Como Christmas
  • 2001 RCA: 100 Years Of Music ~ Perry Como With The Fontane Sisters
  • 2006 Juke Box Baby (Compilation)
  • 2006 One More Time ~ Perry Como & The Fontane Sisters

Final Recordings

  • 1994 Perry Como's Irish Christmas ~ Perry Como's Christmas Concert

Radio ~ Host - Guest

  • Fibber McGee and Molly (1937)
  • Columbia Presents Como (1943)
  • The Perry Como Chesterfield Supper Club (1944-1950)
  • The Perry Como Chesterfield Show (1950-1955)

Television ~ Host

  • The Perry Como Chesterfield Supper Club (1948-1950)
  • The Perry Como Chesterfield Show (1950-1955)
  • The Perry Como Show (1955-1959)
  • Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall (1959-1967)
  • Perry Como Comes To London (1960)
  • The Perry Como Holiday Special (1967)
  • Perry Como Special - In Hollywood (1968)
  • Christmas At The Hollywood Palace (1969)
  • The Many Moods Of Perry Como (1970)
  • Perry Como - In Person (1971)
  • Perry Como's Winter Show (1971)
  • The Perry Como Winter Show (1972)
  • Cole Porter In Paris (1973)
  • The Perry Como Winter Show (1973)
  • The Perry Como Sunshine Show (1974)
  • Perry Como's Summer of '74 (1974)
  • Perry Como's Christmas Show (1974)
  • Como Country: Perry And His Nashville Friends (1975)
  • Perry Como's Springtime Special (1975)
  • Perry Como's Lake Tahoe Holiday (1975)
  • Perry Como's Christmas In Mexico (1975)
  • Perry Como's Hawaiian Holiday (1976)
  • Perry Como's Spring In New Orleans (1976)
  • Perry Como: Las Vegas Style (1976)
  • Perry Como's Christmas In Austria (1976)
  • Perry Como's Music From Hollywood (1977)
  • Perry Como's Olde Englishe Christmas (1977)
  • Perry Como's Easter By The Sea (1978)
  • Perry Como's Early American Christmas (1978)
  • Perry Como's Springtime Special (1979)
  • Perry Como's Christmas In New Mexico (1979)
  • Perry Como's Bahamas Holiday (1980)
  • Perry Como's Christmas In The Holy Land (1980)
  • Perry Como's Spring In San Francisco (1981)
  • Perry Como's French-Canadian Christmas (1981)
  • Perry Como's Easter In Guadalajara (1982)
  • Perry Como's Christmas In Paris (1982)
  • Perry Como's Christmas In New York (1983)
  • Perry Como's Christmas In England (1984)
  • Perry Como's Christmas In Hawaii (1985)
  • The Perry Como Christmas Special (1986)
  • Perry Como's Irish Christmas (1994)

Television ~ Guest - Guest Host - Cameo Appearance - Documentary

  • The Frank Sinatra Show (March 10, 1951)
  • The Frank Sinatra Show (October 19, 1951)
  • The All-Star Revue (February 14, 1953)
  • Max Leibman's Variety (January 30, 1955)
  • Some Of Manie's Friends ~ Tribute To RCA/NBC Executive Manie Saks (March 3, 1959)
  • The Bob Hope Show (November 18, 1956)
  • The Dinah Shore Chevy Show (January 31, 1957)
  • Il Musichiere (May, 1958)
  • The Bing Crosby Show (February 29, 1960)
  • Celebrity Golf (1960)
  • The Bob Hope Show (1967)
  • Laugh-In (November 25, 1968)
  • Laugh-In (January 13, 1969)
  • Laugh-In (March 24, 1969)
  • Laugh-In (February 16, 1970)
  • Jimmy Durante Presents The Lennon Sisters (February 28, 1970)
  • The Doris Mary Anne Kapplehoff Special ~ The Doris Day Special (March 14, 1971)
  • The Flip Wilson Show (October 6, 1971)
  • Julie Andrews On Sesame Street (November 23, 1973)
  • The Royal Variety Performance (November 24, 1974)
  • The Barber Comes To Town (1975)
  • Ann-Margret: Rhinestone Cowgirl (April 26, 1977)
  • Parkinson (November 26, 1977)
  • Bob Hope's Christmas Show (December 1977)
  • Entertainment Tonight ~ On Perry Como's 40th Anniversary With RCA Records (1983)
  • The Today Show (1983)
  • The Kennedy Center Honors (December 27, 1983)
  • The Arlene Herson Show (June 6, 1984)
  • Minneapolis TV Interview (June 19, 1984)
  • Regis Philbin's Life Styles (July, 1984)
  • AM Cleveland (July, 1984)
  • The Kennedy Center Honors (December 6, 1987)
  • Evening At Pops ~ A Tribute To Bing Crosby (August 20, 1988)
  • Regis & Kathy Lee Live (October 11, 1988)
  • Regis & Kathy Lee Live (July 7, 1989)
  • Gala Concert For President Ronald Reagan (October 22, 1989)
  • Regis & Kathy Lee Live (December 4, 1990)
  • Regis & Kathy Lee Live (December 5, 1990)
  • Broadcast Hall of Fame (January 7, 1991)
  • Hard Copy ~ Perry Como - The King of Crooners (June 14, 1991)
  • CBS - This Morning (December 20, 1991)
  • National Memorial Day Concert, Washington D.C. (May 22, 1992)
  • Regis & Kathy Lee Live (November 15, 1994)

Filmography - Including Shorts

  • Something To Shout About (1943) ~ Possible Cameo (Not Yet Confirmed)
  • Something for the Boys (1944)
  • Doll Face (1945)
  • March of Time (1945)
  • If I'm Lucky (1946)
  • Words and Music (1948)
  • Tobaccoland on Parade (1950)
  • The Fifth Freedom (1951)

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