Como,Perry (actually, Pierino Ronald)

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Como,Perry (actually, Pierino Ronald)

Como,Perry (actually, Pierino Ronald),

American singer with relaxed style; b. Canonsburg, Pa., May 18, 1912. Como was the most successful pop singer for the period 1945–60. He scored 52 Top Ten hits, 12 million-selling singles, and four gold albums, his biggest songs being “Till the End of Time,” “If,” and “Wanted.” Heavily influenced by Bing Crosby, he sang in a casual, becalmed style suited to the light romantic ballads and novelty tunes he recorded. His comfortable manner also made him an ideal radio and television host, and he emceed musical variety shows from the early 1940s to the early 1960s.

Como was the son of Pietro and Lucia Como. His father was a mill worker, and he was put to work early to help feed his 12 brothers and sisters. At age 12 he was apprenticed to a barber, and at 14 he ran his own barbershop, turning to the work full-time after he graduated from high school in 1929. In spring 1933 he successfully auditioned for bandleader Freddie Carlone. After joining the band, he married Roselle Beline on July 31, 1933; they had one child and adopted two more.

Como joined the more prestigious orchestra of Ted Weems in 1935, making his recording debut with “You Can’t Pull the Wool Over My Eyes” in spring 1936. Decca, Weems’s label, hesitated to record Como because of his similarity to Bing Crosby, who also recorded for Decca. Based in Chicago, Weems and his band made many radio appearances, notably on the Fibber McGee and Molly comedy series in 1936–37 and on their own series, Beat the Band, in 1940–1. When Weems disbanded to join the merchant marines in December 1942, Como intended to return to his barbershop but was talked out of it by a booking agent who found him work as a solo performer in N.Y. nightclubs. This led to a radio series, The Perry Corno Show, more prominent club bookings, such as an extended engagement at the Copacabana, and, on June 17, 1943, a recording contract with RCA Victor.

Como made his solo recording debut on June 20, 1943, with “Goodbye Sue” (music and lyrics by Jimmy Rule, Lou Ricca, and Jules Loman), which reached the charts in October. His first Top Ten record was “Long Ago (and Far Away)” (music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Ira Gershwin) in June 1944. He signed a contract with 20th Century-Fox and went to Hollywood, where he appeared in his first motion picture, Something for the Boys, in November 1944. Subsequently, he appeared in Doll Face (December, 1945) and If I’m Lucky (September 1946), but he then chose to end his contract. He made a final film cameo in the Richard Rodgers-Lorenz Hart movie biography Words and Music in December 1948.

Como’s film career had fallen victim to his far more successful career on radio. On Dec. 11, 1944, he became the host of the 15-minute radio series The Chesterfield Supper Club on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays each week, and remained with the show for nearly five years. The exposure buoyed his recording career, and he scored his first million-seller with a revival of the 1933 song ’Temptation” (music by Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Arthur Freed) in June 1945. But his breakthrough hit was his second million-seller, ’Till the End of Time” (music and lyrics by Buddy Kaye and Ted Mossman, adapted from “Polonaise in A-Flat Major,” by Frederic Chopin), which went to #1 in September 1945. By the end of the year he released a third million-seller, the novelty tune “Dig You Later (A Hubba-Hubba- Hubba)” (music by Jimmy McHugh, lyrics by Harold Adamson), which he sang in Doll Face.

Como’s fourth million-seller came with a revival of the 1931 song “Prisoner of Love” (music by Russ Columbo and Clarence Gaskill, lyrics by Leo Robin), which went to #1 in May 1946. He returned to #1 in August with “Surrender” (music and lyrics by Bennie Benjamin and George David Weiss). That September his first album, Perry Como, reached the Top Ten, followed two months later by a chart-topping seasonal album, Merry Christmas Music, which would return to the Top Ten in 1947, 1948, and 1949. His next #1 single was “Chi-Baba Chi-Baba (My Bambino Go to Sleep)” (music and lyrics by Mack David, Jerry Livingston, and Al Hoffman) in June 1947; the flip side, a revival of the 1898 song “When You Were Sweet Sixteen” (music and lyrics by James Thornton) was also a major hit, and the record sold a million copies.

Como’s next 78, A Sentimental Date with Perry Como, hit #1 in February 1948. In March came his sixth million-seller, a revival of the 1902 song “Because” (music by Mrs. W. I. Rhodes under the pseudonym Guy d’Hardelot, lyrics by Edward Lockton under the pseudonym Edward Teschemaker).

Christmas Eve 1948, marked the initial television broadcast of The Chesterfield Supper Club, NBC’s weekly half-hour program cohosted by Como and Peggy Lee. Keying off the program, Como’s next album, Supper Club Favorites, became a Top Ten hit in March 1949. His next #1 single was “’A’—You’re Adorable” (music and lyrics by Buddy Kaye, Fred Wise, and Sidney Lippman) in May, and he returned to the top of the charts in July with “Some Enchanted Evening” (music by Richard Rodger s, lyrics by Oscar Hammer stein II). With 15 chart records during the year, he was the top recording artist of 1949.

Como was back at #1 in June 1950 with “Hoop-Dee-Doo” (music by Milton De Lugg, lyrics by Frank Loesser). For the 1950–51 television season he moved to CBS for The Perry Corno Show, which ran for 15 minutes three times a week. His revival of the 1934 song “If” (music by Tolchard Evans, lyrics by Robert Hargreaves and Stanley Damerell) hit #1 in March 1951. There were six more chart records that year, and another nine in 1952, but his next chart-topper and seventh million-seller did not come until January 1953 with the country-flavored “Don’t Let the Stars Get In Your Eyes” (music and lyrics by Winston Moore under the pseudonym Slim Willet; Cactus Pry or; and Barbara Trammel).

Como returned to #1 with “No Other Love” (music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II) in Aug. and again ranked as the top recording artist of the year for 1953. He also returned to radio in 1953, with The Perry Corno Show, which ran through 1955. He began 1954 with the religious album / Believe, which hit the Top Ten in February, followed by the million-selling single “Wanted” (music and lyrics by Jack Fulton and Lois Steele), which went to #1 in April. Taking advantage of the mambo craze, he scored his ninth million-seller in the fall with “Papa Loves Mambo” (music and lyrics by Al Hoffman, Dick Manning, and Bix Reichner).

Como won a 1954 Emmy Award as Best Male Singer on television. In September he moved back to NBC and launched a new version of The Perry Corno Show as an hour-long Saturday evening musical variety series. The following month his album So Smooth reached the Top Ten. He won two 1955 Emmy Awards, for Best Male Singer and for Best MC or Program Host. In May 1956 he hit #1 with his tenth million-seller, “Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)” (music and lyrics by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning, music adapted from “España, Rhapsody for Orchestra” by Alexis Charbrier).

Como’s television show was among the ten most popular programs for the 1956–57 season, and he won his fourth Emmy, as Best Male Personality—Continuing Performance. He next topped the charts in April 1957 with his 11th million-seller, “Round and Round” (music and lyrics by Lou Stallman and Joe Shapiro) and returned to the Top Ten of the LP charts in September with We Get Letters, named after a popular segment of his TV show. In December a long-playing version of his Merry Christmas Music album reached the Top Ten, as it did again in 1958; in 1966 it was certified gold.

December 1957 also saw the release of the single “Catch a Falling Star” (music and lyrics by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss), which hit #1 in March and became Como’s twelfth million-seller, the first record actually certified as such by the Record Industry Association of America on March 14, 1958. (Its flip side, “Magic Moments” [music by Burt Bacharach, lyrics by Hal David], hit #1 in the U.K.) It also won him his only Grammy Award, for Best Vocal Performance, Male. Two days after that award was given out, he won his fifth Emmy Award, for Best Performance by an Actor (Continuing Character) in a Musical Variety Series for the 1958–59 season of The Perry Corno Show.

For the 1959–60 television season the Corno show was sponsored by Kraft, rechristened The Kraft MusicHall, and moved to Wednesday nights. That fall, Como had a new Christmas album, Seasons Greetings, which was certified gold three years later and became a perennial seller.

Como ended his weekly appearances on television at the close of the 1962–63 season on June 12, 1963. For the next two years, however, he hosted occasional broadcasts of The Kraft Music Hall and after that did television specials, notably an annual Christmas show. Another seasonal LP, The Perry Como Christmas Album, released in Aug. 1968, was certified gold after 14 years.

In June 1970, Como performed live for the first time in more than 20 years with appearances in Las Vegas. Thereafter he toured regularly. He scored his first major hit in more than 12 years with “It’s Impossible” (music by Armando Manzanero, English lyrics by Sid Wayne), which topped the easy-listening charts in December 1970 and reached the pop Top Ten in January 1971, earning a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male. His last notable hit was “And I Love You So” (music and lyrics by Don McLean), which went to #1 on the easy-listening charts in May 1973 and earned another Grammy nomination, for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male.

And I Love You So the album was released in May 1973; it was certified gold in the U.S. and topped the U.K. charts in January 1974. Como returned to #1 in Great Britain in November 1975 with the compilation album 40 Greatest Hits. He continued to reach the charts until 1983, and he released his last new album on RCA, Perry Como Today, in 1987. He continued to perform concerts on occasion into the 1990s.


Supper Club Favorites (1952); Around the Christmas Tree (1953); A Sentimental Date with Perry Como (1955); Relaxing with Perry Como (1955); So Smooth (1955); Merry Christmas Music (1957); We Get Letters (1957); Dream Along with Me (1957); Saturday Night with Mr. C.(1958); When You Come to the End of the Day (1958); Como Swings (1959); Season’s Greetings (1959); For the Young at Heart (1961); Sing to Me, Mr. C.(1961); By Request (1962); The Songs I Love (1963); Easy Listening (1964); Sentimental Date (1964); TV Favorites (1964); The Scene Changes (1965); Lightly Latin (1966); Perry Corno in Italy (1966); The Christmas Album (1968); Seattle (1969); It’s Impossible (1970); 7 Think of You (1971); And I Love You So (1973); Perry (1974); Just Out of Reach (1975); Perry Como (1980); I Wish It Could Be Christmas Forever (1982); Today (1987).

—William Ruhlmann