Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pierino Ronald Como - My Favorite Singer

This story is for those over 60 years of age as many of you have never heard of Perry Como! He was very big in the entertainment field from 1943 through the 1970s. He was Mr. Smooth. Laid back - nothing seemed to phase him. His Radio and TV programs were the same way.

Our first Christmas record album in 1955 featuring many of the artists of that day had a song by Perry that was famous at the time by another artist - White Christmas. His friend, Bing Crosby, made that one famous but as happens in the recording business, when a song becomes popular, many artists give their spin to it. I still play that album every Christmas Season - 53 years coming up!

Yes, I still have vinyl records and I still play them! Many people have converted these over to their iPOD's or Cd's but I'm hanging on to the "Good Old Days" as long as I can. I have Perry Como record albums, cassettes, Cd's and Videos. I'm a fan!

Perry Como was born May 18, 1912 (96 years ago today) in Canonsburg, PA. He was one of the most popular vocalists between the end of World War II and the rise of rock & roll in the mid-'50s. Perry perfected the post-big band approach to pop music by lending his own irresistible laid back singing - influenced by Bing Crosby and Russ Columbo - to the popular hits of the day on radio, TV, and LP. Both his early traditional crooning style plus his later relaxed manner and focus on novelty material were heavily indebted to Bing though Perry's appeal during the early '50s was virtually unrivalled. Perry Como worked as a singing barber in his hometown when he began touring with local bandleader, Freddie Carlone, at the age of 21. By the mid-'30s he got his big break with Ted Weems & His Orchestra, who headed a popular radio show named Beat the Band. After the orchestra broke up in 1942, Como hosted a regional CBS radio show later called Supper Club. The shows success gained him a contract with RCA Victor Records by 1942, and he also began working in Hollywood with Something for the Boys.

Mr. Como's real big break came with the 1945 film A Song to Remember. His rendition of "Till The End of Time" spent ten weeks at the top of the charts and became the biggest hit of the year and of his career. His career in the motion picture industry was brief and unrewarding. "I was wasting their time and they were wasting mine," Como admitted. Perry's dreamy baritone worked especially well on ballads, such as the additional 1945-47 number one hits "Prisoner of Love", "Surrender" and "Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba". Hired by NBC for another radio show in 1948, Como crossed over to the emerging medium of television that same year with the Chesterfield Supper Club. The show quickly took off, and eventually earned him four Emmy Awards. In the mid-'50s, Como began to indulge in light novelty fare, the titles often comprising nonsense words --"Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo," "Hoop-Dee-Doo," "Pa-Paya Mama" and "Hot Diggity". Though he often disliked the songs, they frequently became huge hits and he made his reputation as one of the singers who defined the style of music later known as middle-of-the-road pop.

Como's breezy songs had worked well at the beginning of the decade, but his appeal began to wane towards the end of the 1950s, with the emergence of rock & roll and the wave of teen idols. His last number one hit "Catch a Falling Star" came in 1958. He was less visible during the '60s but returned in 1970 with his first live show in over two decades, and a world tour followed; a single ("It's Impossible") even made the Top Ten in late 1970. Perry continued to record LPs and occasional television specials while making scattered appearances during the 1970s and '80s.
Como sold more than one hundred million records and had fourteen tunes that were ranked number one musical hits.

In 1933 Perry married his high school sweetheart, Roselle Belline. She died in August 1998 at the age of 84, two weeks after celebrating their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary.

On May 12, 2001, Perry Como died in his sleep at his home in Florida just a few days short of his 89th birthday. On May 14, 2001, the Washington Post noted in retrospect: "What Perry Como did week after week on his TV shows was not so much sing to his fans as have a continuing conversation with them, a conversation in song." (This story was written in part by John Bush for All Music Guide).

Some interesting items concerning his life --
1. He recorded his final album for RCA in 1987.
2. Como received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.
3. Perry Como was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2007.
4. In 1994 he recorded (privately for PBS) his Christmas Concert in Ireland. I have the video of it and play it every Christmas Season. Is it his best work --no. His voice was going but what he gave to the concert attenders was the love of singing to them and they returned that love to him for his lifetime of work.

For more information please visit and enter "Perry Como".

Personal note -- I made a CD for my family with 12 songs on it in 2002. It contained two of Perry Como's hits -- "And I Love You So" and "It's Impossible". I have performed these on cruise ship Talent Shows using the background music from Perry's recordings.

1 comment:

Rick Moore said...

Very interesting - I learned a few things about Como.