Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Perry Como (1912 - 2001)

Pierino Ronald "Perry" Como was born in 1912, in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, 20 miles south of Pittsburgh. He was the middle child of 13 children, the seventh son of immigrants from Palena, Italy. Pierino wanted to be a barber after graduating from high school and earned pocket money singing and playing organ and baritone horn at wedding receptions. When on holiday in Cleveland in 1933 his friends urged him to audition for Freddy Carlone's band, a local attraction. For a bit of fun, he did and a few weeks later he was asked to join the band. It was at the beginning of the Depression and Perry was naturally cautious about leaving the security of his haircutting business for the uncertainty of becoming a professional singer. Fortunately his parents convinced him to take the chance and during these early days Perry learned to read music and the poise of a professional singer. He also became very good friends with veteran crooner, Russ Columbo. Years later one of Perry’s biggest selling hit was Columbo's famous "Prisoner of Love."

After Perry joined Ted Ween’s Orchestra in 1936 his popularity skyrocketed. And he became a recording artist with "You Can't Pull the Wool over My Eyes", a novelty tune recorded for the Decca Records label.

Night after night, one night stands across the US forged Perry into a consummate performer with his baritone voice. When the Weems band broke up in 1942, Perry went on to CBS, where he sang without any conspicuous success. Perry was seriously thinking of giving up show business to be a barber again when NBC offered him a contract to share star billing with singer Jo Stafford on the radio show, Chesterfield Supper Club, which he accepted.

A year later teenagers stood for hours in lines, three deep, waiting to see the new sensation Perry Como. In 1943 in the midst of a strike by the American Federation of Musicians, Como recorded with only vocal accompaniment "Goodbye Sue" for the RCA Victor label.

In 1943 he signed for RCA Victor and after a few false starts came out with "Till the End of Time" (based on Chopin's "Polonaise in A-Flat"), an instant hit.

Perry made his movie debut when he co-starred with Vivian Blaine, Phil Silvers and Carmen Miranda in "Something for the Boys." (1944).

"Doll Face" (1945), and "If I'm Lucky" (1946) followed, but to no critical success, then he appeared in Words and Music (1948).

After a televised version of the Chesterfield Supper Club Perry radio show appeared at Christmas time in 1948, Perry realized this was an ideal medium for his easy listening singing style and personality.

Viewers loved his friendliness and in 1950 Perry Como signed with CBS, hosting his own TV program. In 1955 he went back to NBC, starring in the weekly Perry Como Show, later titled The Kraft Music Hall (1959). He remained with NBC until 1963.

Wearing a cardigan sweater and showing a winning smile on television, crooning to the masses made him the highest-paid performer in the history of television to that date. After his regular shows came to an end Perry appeared in televised specials which were featured bi-monthly, then monthly, and finally limited to seasonal specials celebrating Easter, Spring, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. These ended in 1987. The programs were recorded in many parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, Rome, Austria, France, and many locations throughout North America. His final concert was in Dublin in 1994. In 1974 Perry’s version of “Christmas Dream", was used to dramatic effect in the Jon Voight movie, The Odessa File (1974). This won many new fans to the now aging crooner.

Perry passed away in 2001, aged 87.

Worth a listen:
Till The End of Time (1945)
Temptation (1945)
Prisoner of Love (1946)
Surrender (1946)
Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba (1947)
Because (1948)
A - You're Adorable (1949)
Some Enchanted Evening (1949)
Hoop-De-Doo (1950)
If (1951)
Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes (1952)
No Other Love (1953)
Wanted (1954)
Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom) (1956)
Round and Round (1957)
Catch a Falling Star (1958)
It's Impossible (1971)
And I Love You So (1973)
Christmas Dream" (1974)

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