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- Nicholas Perito
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Nick Perito was an American composer, arranger, and band leader, and for 40 years the closest collaborator of singer Perry Como. Perito was nominated for a dozen Emmys, primarily for Como specials and televised presentations of the Kennedy Center Honors in the 1980s and early '90s. Perito joined Como in 1963 as the singer's long-running "The Perry Como Show" was ending, and stayed on as his music director and conductor for frequent television specials, tours and recording sessions. Perito also handled the music for television specials for Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, and Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. He played piano in recording sessions for Steve & Eydie and for Julius La Rosa, among others. For the big screen, Perito scored the 1968 comedy "Don't Just Stand There," starring Robert Wagner and Mary Tyler Moore.
He began playing the accordion at a young age and soon started performing at parties. He received a scholarship to the Lamont School of Music, studying at the University of Denver. Perito was drafted in 1943 and served as an Army medic in New York during World War II; he also played piano and did musical arrangements for the Army band. Perito remained in New York after World War II, entering the Juilliard School of Music and graduating from the college in 1949.
Perito returned to Denver in 1946 and worked at Denver's KOA with his own weekday radio program. After that, he went back to New York, where he worked as a songwriter, arranger, and accordion/piano session musician. Perito also had his own band that had a permanent spot at Jack Dempsey's Broadway Restaurant, owned by the boxer. His first association with Perry Como came through Como's arranger, Ray Charles, in the early 1950s. Como had recorded a novelty song, "Hoop-De-Doo", and Perito was hired to accompany him on accordion for television performances of the song. He also became the musical director of United Artists Records in 1961.
Perito's other credits include the Kennedy Center Honors, American Film Institute awards, The Don Knotts Variety Show, and the Andy Williams and Bing Crosby television specials. Perito wrote the music for the 1968 film, Don't Just Stand There! with Robert Wagner and Mary Tyler Moore. Perito was also an influential arranger of background music for Muzak in the late 1960s and early 70s. He became the musical director for Bob Hope in 1993 and worked with Hope's wife, Dolores, when she decided to pick up her singing career after 60 years. Perito, along with musicians Dick Grove and Allyn Ferguson, was a founder and partner of the Grove School of Music in Van Nuys, California; the school was accredited in 1979 but closed in 1991. His work earned Perito a dozen Emmy nominations a year before his death of pulmonary fibrosis at the age of 81 on August 3, 2005 in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, CA.