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Como, Perry, 1912-2001
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- Como, Pierino Ronald
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1912-05-18 - 2001-05-12
Pierino Ronald Como, known professionally as Perry Como, was an American singer and television personality that dominated the early broadcast era. Como continually hosted a music variety show from 1948 to 1967. He was famous for his insistence on keeping the content of his shows clean, as well as his natural demeanor on and off screen.
Como was the first American-born child of Italian parents who immigrated to Canonburg, Pennsylvania in 1910. He didn't learn English until he started school, but quickly learned to play a variety of instruments including the organ, piano, trombone, and guitar. Ironically, he never had formal voice lessons. Beginning at the age of 10 Como trained to be a barber; by the time he was 14, he had his own shop. He was extremely popular around town because he would sing while he worked. A career as a musician was not what Como had in mind for his life, but in 1933 he was offered a job as the vocalist for a traveling dance band headed by Freddy Carlone. Despite the fact that he would make only a quarter of what he did as a barber, Como's father urged him to accept, and he did.
Como toured with Freddy Carlone for the next 3 years. He then received an offer to become a vocalist for the nationally renowned Ted Weems Orchestra, which he accepted at Carlone's insistence. The position came with a raise and a change of location to Chicago, although the band also toured regularly. It was with the Weems orchestra that Como did his first recording work. Despite his incredible success as a vocalist, in 1942 Como left the music business and returned to Pennsylvania so that he could spend more time with his wife and young child. Offers for radio and recording contracts followed him all the way there. Como was reluctant to take any but was convinced by his wife to accept an offer for a no-sponsored radio show and recording contract from CBS. He went live in March 1943; he began performing at the Copacabana Night Club later that year, and signed a recording contract with RCA. The live performances didn't last very long, but in 1944 he moved to NBC to front the sponsored radio musical variety program "Chesterfield Supper Club". He would also continue recording with RCA for the remainder of his career, an arrangement that proved to be so profitable for the label that it eventually stopped trying to tally how many Como hits had been sold.
In 1948, NBC decided to try something new: they simulcast "Chesterfield Supper Club" on both radio and television. The experiment proved successful, and Como became a television staple for the next 20 years. In 1950, his show moved to CBS and became the "Perry Como Chesterfield Show". In 1955 he returned to NBC, where he would remain for the next 12 years with "The Perry Como Show" (1955-59) and "Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall" (1959-67). In addition to his regular shows, Como recorded constantly. Nearly every year, from 1948 to 1994, he recorded an annual Christmas special for broadcast. When "Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall" went off air in 1967, Como began limiting his television appearances until his holiday specials were his only major broadcasts. He returned to radio in the 1990s, but for the most part he enjoyed his later life out of the public eye.
Como died a few days before his 89th birthday.
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