Perry Como Biography

Pierino Como, 18 May 1912, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 12 May 2001, Jupiter Inlet Beach Colony, Florida, USA. Como was an accomplished popular singer with a warm baritone voice, whose repertoire included ballads, novelty numbers and singalongs. Born into a large Italian-American family in Canonsburg, he left his home town barber shop in 1933 and toured with the local band of Freddie Carlone. His big break came in 1936 when he joined trombonist Ted Weems’ band and featured on their Beat The Band radio show. He left the band when it broke up in 1942, and the following year signed for RCA Records. After minor hits with ‘Long Ago And Far Away’, ‘I’m Gonna Love That Gal’ and ‘If I Loved You’, he topped the US charts in 1945 with ‘’Till The End Of Time’, based on Chopin’s ‘Polonaise In A-Flat Major’.

A comparatively late starter in hit parade terms, he made up for lost time in the late 40s with a string of US hits including ‘Did You Ever Get That Feeling In The Moonlight?’, ‘(A Hubba-Hubba-Hubba) Dig You Later’, ‘I’m Always Chasing Rainbows’ (adapted from another Chopin theme), ‘You Won’t Be Satisfied (Until You Break My Heart)’, ‘Prisoner Of Love’ (number 1), ‘All Through The Day’, ‘They Say It’s Wonderful’, ‘Surrender’ (number 1), ‘Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba, (My Baby Go To Sleep)’ (number 1), ‘When You Were Sweet Sixteen’, ‘I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now’ (a 1939 recording when Como was with Ted Weems), ‘Because’ (a 1902 song, originally sung by Enrico Caruso), ‘Far Away Places’, ‘Forever And Ever’, ‘A-You’re Adorable’ (a number 1, with the Fontane Sisters), ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ (number 1) and ‘A Dreamer’s Holiday’. He also featured regularly on radio programmes, such as his own Supper Club series, and made four films, Something for The Boys (1944), loosely based on the Cole Porter Broadway show, Doll Face (1945), If I’m Lucky (1946), and the star-studded Richard Rodgers / Lorenz Hart biopic, Words And Music (1948).

The 50s were even more fruitful years for Como, mainly because of the apparent ease with which he adapted to television. His easy, relaxed singing style coupled with an engaging sense of humour proved ideal for the relatively new medium. He had made his television debut in 1948 on NBC’s The Chesterfield Supper Club, and two years later began his own show with CBS, The Perry Como Show. Later retitled Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall, his new weekly show ran on NBC from 1955-63 and is still regarded as the best television show of its kind, and featured his theme song ‘Sing Along With Me’. It also inspired the albums We Get Letters and Saturday Night With Mr. C. Andy Williams’ successful television show owed much to the Como style. In the early 50s, despite the onset of rock ‘n’ roll, the hits continued with Hoop-Dee-Doo’ (number 1) and ‘You’re Just In Love’ (both with the Fontane Sisters), ‘Patricia’, ‘A Bushel And A Peck’, ‘If’, ‘Maybe’ (with Eddie Fisher), ‘Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes’ (number 1 in the USA and UK), ‘Wild Horses’ (adapted From Robert Schumann’s ‘Wild Horseman’), ‘Say You’re Mine Again’, ‘No Other Love’ (based on the theme from the 1954 documentary Victory At Sea), ‘You Alone’, ‘Wanted’ (number 1) and ‘Papa Loves Mambo’. During the latter half of the 50s, with the advantage of the television showcase, he still registered strongly in the USA with ‘Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So)’, ‘Tina Marie’, ‘Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)’ (number 1), ‘Juke Box Baby’, ‘More’, ‘Glendora’, ‘Round And Round’ (number 1), ‘Catch A Falling Star’ (number 1), ‘Magic Moments’ (an early Burt Bacharach and Hal David song), and ‘Kewpie Doll’. He also made the UK Top 10 several times, with ‘Magic Moments’ topping the charts in 1958.

Semi-retired during the 60s, he emerged in 1970 to play ‘live’ for the first time for over 20 years, an event celebrated by the album In Person At The International Hotel Las Vegas. He then, somewhat surprisingly, embarked on a series of world tours, and had his first hit singles for over a decade with the Mexican ballad ‘It’s Impossible’, composed by Armando Manzanero, with a new lyric by Sid Wayne, ‘And I Love You So’ and ‘For The Good Times’. At this time Como’s record sales were estimated at over 60 million, including 20 gold discs. To many, Como’s laid-back approach and many popular television specials, particularly at Christmas, bordered on parody. In the late 80s he performed occasionally in Las Vegas, and received generous media tributes in 1992 on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

After a spell of ill health Como died in May 2001 having suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. His immense commercial success was undeniable, and is perhaps one of the reasons when male song stylists are discussed, that he is too often underrated. It is hoped that he will be remembered in the history of popular music, not only for his warming voice but for his incredibly relaxed aura, both in front of the television camera and in the company of a live audience. It is unlikely that the great Perry Como ever broke into a sweat.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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