Pierino "Perry" Como (May 18, 1912 ? May 12, 2001) was an Italian-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."
Well known composer Ervin Drake said of him, " . . . occasionally someone like Perry comes along and won't 'go with the flow' and still prevails in spite of all the bankrupt others who surround him and importune him to yield to their values. Only occasionally."
Perry Como received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1987, and was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006.
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.
Perry Como and Superman
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. Como told the Pop Chronicles about his experience with Weems' band and whistler Elmo Tanner:
A song would come out ... a singer's song, right? Elmo would whistle it. Whatever he didn't want to whistle, I would sing. Now you can imagine what I used to sing. It was frightening. Elmo was the whole band, you know?
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.
Como had, according to Joel Whitburn's compilations of the U.S. Pop Charts, fourteen U.S. #1 singles: "Till The End Of Time" (1945); "Prisoner of Love" (1946); "Surrender" (1946); "Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba" (1947); "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); and "Catch a Falling Star" (1957). He also had more minor hits with "Just Born (To Be Your Baby)" (#12) and "Ivy Rose" (#18).
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." 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.
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."
Perry Como made the move to television when NBC initially televised the Chesterfield Supper Club radio program on , 1948. During the 1949-50 season, it became a weekly half-hour offering on Sunday nights, directly opposite Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town. In 1950, Perry moved to CBS and the show's title was changed to The Perry Como Show, again sponsored by Liggett & Myers' Chesterfield cigarettes. Como hosted this informal 15 minute musical variety series on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, immediately following the CBS Television News (later known as Douglas Edwards with the News). The Faye Emerson Show was initially 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 the fall of 1955 on Saturdays with a weekly hour long variety show featuring additional musical and production numbers, comedy sketches and guest stars. 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 nights, hosting the Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall for the next eight years, the last four seasons (1963-67) as monthly specials alternating with Kraft Suspense Theatre, The Andy Williams Show, and finally The Road West.
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 traveled 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, Como visited a barber shop called The Como on Thomas Street. The owners, lifelong fans who had named their business in his honor, had sent photographs of the shop and letters to Como inviting him to visit, and he did. Photos of Como with the barbers were framed in the shop. The Como closed in 2002 but it remains a household name in The Liberties.
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.
Lists of miscellaneous information should be avoided. Please relocate any relevant information into appropriate sections or articles. (March 2008)
Singing statue of Perry Como in downtown Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
Perry Como's birthplace of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania is also the birth place of popular singer Bobby Vinton. Vinton always claimed to be from Pittsburgh, while Como always said he was from Canonsburg, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Canonsburg erected a statue of Como in the middle of town on a base that reads, "To this place God has brought me." Perry Como was never able to see the statue before his death. The statue "sings" by playing recordings of Como's music.
In downtown Gettysburg, there are two statues in front of the house where Lincoln stayed the night before he gave the Gettysburg Address. One is of Lincoln with his left arm raised, using his stove-pipe hat to point to the window of the room in which he stayed. His right hand is on the arm of a "tourist", as if he's showing the tourist the room. The tourist depicted is Perry Como, in his famous cardigan sweater.
The comedy show SCTV featured a popular sketch with Eugene Levy as "Perry Como: Still Alive!" in which the singer was portrayed as so laid-back that he sang while lying down. The sketch became well enough known to have been mentioned in obituaries, which reported that Como had been greatly amused by it.
Como's 1974 RCA Recording "Christmas Dream", complete with warm lyrics and charming vocal accompaniment from The London Boy Singers, was used in the holocaust / Nazi-pursuit film The Odessa File, forming a memorably ironic, bitter and satirical introduction to the film as Jon Voight drives through a modern brightly lit Hamburg at Christmas.
Como was referenced in the series finale of Seinfeld, in which Jerry Seinfeld, Kramer, George Costanza, and Elaine Benes's attorney Jackie Chiles tells Costanza: "I want the jury to see Perry Como! No one's gonna convict Perry Como!" Chiles wanted Costanza to look like a friendly man, and not a felon, in his court appearance.
Como was also referenced on the animated show The Angry Beavers. In the episode "The Mom from U.N.C.L.E.", Norbert and Daggett's mother says they look "strong and handsome, just like Perry Como.".
His version of Jingle Bells topped Billboard magazine's Hot Ringtones chart in the , 2006 issue, meaning that Como has had chart-topping songs 61 years apart.
In The Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life", Dan Hollis receives a Perry Como album as a surprise birthday present. His inability to play the album at his leisure becomes the catalyst for his breakdown and tragic rebellion against little Anthony Fremont (Bill Mumy), who dislikes any singers' voices ("No singing while the music's playin'!").
Como is mentioned in the third sketch of the 48th show of the second season of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (also featuring Wailing Whale episodes 5 & 6), which was first released on , 1961.
Como is mentioned in the song "Without Love" from the musical Hairspray, the characters claiming that, "Without love/Life's like making out with Perry Como."
Perry Como is mentioned, along with other celebrities, in Peggy Lee's "A Doodlin' Song".
An episode of Animaniacs featured a character named "Perry Coma" -- whose singing is so laid-back it puts others to sleep.
In 2007, Perry Como was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
"Temptation," a song popularized by Como, is a staple of the Michigan Marching Band during University of Michigan football games.
The song "Magic Moments" can be heard during the "lifesaver" trick performed by magician Dan Sperry.
The Song Papa Loves Mambo was in the Game Bioshock
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 Comepo
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
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
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
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 (, 1951)
The Frank Sinatra Show (, 1951)
The All-Star Revue (, 1953)
Max Leibman's Variety (, 1955)
Some Of Manie's Friends ~ Tribute To RCA/NBC Executive Manie Saks (, 1959)
The Bob Hope Show (, 1956)
The Dinah Shore Chevy Show (, 1957)
Il Musichiere (May, 1958)
The Bing Crosby Show (, 1960)
Celebrity Golf (1960)
The Bob Hope Show (1967)
Laugh-In (, 1968)
Laugh-In (, 1969)
Laugh-In (, 1969)
Laugh-In (, 1970)
Jimmy Durante Presents The Lennon Sisters (, 1970)
The Doris Mary Anne Kapplehoff Special ~ The Doris Day Special (, 1971)
The Flip Wilson Show (, 1971)
Julie Andrews On Sesame Street (, 1973)
The Royal Variety Performance (, 1974)
The Barber Comes To Town (1975)
Ann-Margret: Rhinestone Cowgirl (, 1977)
Parkinson (, 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 (, 1983)
The Arlene Herson Show (, 1984)
Minneapolis TV Interview (, 1984)
Regis Philbin's Life Styles (July, 1984)
AM Cleveland (July, 1984)
The Kennedy Center Honors (, 1987)
Evening At Pops ~ A Tribute To Bing Crosby (, 1988)
Regis & Kathy Lee Live (, 1988)
Regis & Kathy Lee Live (, 1989)
Gala Concert For President Ronald Reagan (, 1989)
Regis & Kathy Lee Live (, 1990)
Regis & Kathy Lee Live (, 1990)
Broadcast Hall of Fame (, 1991)
Hard Copy ~ Perry Como - The King of Crooners (, 1991)
CBS - This Morning (, 1991)
National Memorial Day Concert, Washington D.C. (, 1992)
Regis & Kathy Lee Live (, 1994)
Filmography - including shorts
Perry Como as Nicky Ricci performing "Here Comes Heaven Again" in 1946 Doll Face.
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)
Round and Round
Como's hit song was adapted for a Ballantine beer commercial, centering on the three rings that symbolized the product.
The original song begins this way:
Find a wheel and it goes round, round, round
As it skims along with a happy sound
As it goes along the ground, ground, ground
Till it leads you to the one you love.
Take a ring and add another ring
And then another ring and then you've got three rings
Ballantine and now it's premium
It's a very special glass of beer.
List of popular music performers
List of songs recorded by Perry Como
Best selling music artists