Perry Como: From Barber To Million Selling Singer

Perry Como 1912-2001

 

Perry Como was born as Pierino Ronald Como on September 18, 1912 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. His parents Pietro and Lucia Como had immigrated from Italy in 1910. Perry was the first of 13 children to be born in America and was the seventh son of a seventh son. Ironically, he would have 13 #1 songs.

He was only 11 when he began his career as a barber and by the age of 14 had his own barber shop. He would receive his first break when offered a job by the Freddy Carlone Orchestra. He had to choose between earning $28 a week with the orchestra or keep drawing the $125 a week he was earning as a barber. His dad talked him into accepting the singing job, since Perry would never know if he would be a success as a singer, until the gave it a try and began traveling with the orchestra in 1933.

His big break would come when bandleader Teddy Weems signed him to sing with his orchestra in 1936.

 

Perry Como early in his career.

 

Como now was in the big money going from $28 a week, with the Freddy Carlone Orchestra, to $50 a week with the Ted Weems Orchestra. Perry almost got fired when with the Weems Orchestra, because the listeners couldn’t understand the words he was singing. He corrected the problem and kept his job. By 1940 he was earning $250 a week.

1942 was a fateful year for Perry who would quit the Ted Weems band and return home to become a barber again. However, before he could negotiate a lease, for his barber shop he was offered a CBS radio program.  He went on the radio program for CBS in 1943. Later that same year he would be offered a recording contract with RCA Records. The relationship would last for 44 years, which is longer than any other major artist.

 

A Perry Como Christmas album that was in my collection at one time.

 

Perry Como was part of a revolutionary broadcast on April 5, 1946, when the Chesterfield Supper Club was broadcast from 20,000 feet in the air. He had to use handheld mike, which became very heavy due to cabin pressure.

Como in Movies and Television

Perry was seen in only five theatrical movies from 1943-1948 and never acted in another movie the last 53 years of his life.

He first appeared in his own television show in Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall from 1950-1966. I can remember Dream Along With Me being his theme song and the Sing to Me Mr. C. part of the show. Another memory of his show was when the singers sang ” We get letters, stacks and stacks of letters.” It would be great to see some of those old shows again if they even still exist.

Perry Como Christmas 1974 Christmas special.

 

Perry’s Christmas specials were a treat during the years they were shown. His Christmas show became as big of a part of Christmas and the Bob Hope Christmas special. He sang Ave Maria on the specials, but never sang it during a live performance, since he said it is a special song that had to be sung at the right time and at the right place.

Some interesting trivia about Perry from IMDB.com:

Perry Como was a short man who was only 5 foot 6.

He sold over 50 million records and was so humble, that he never asked for certification of most of his records that achieved gold record status.

His only marriage was to Roselle Beline, whom he was married to from July 31, 1933 till her death on August 10, 1998.

Was signed to RCA Records from 1943-1988.

He was the godfather of Debby Boone.

This quote by Perry Como signifies his humbleness: I’ve done nothing that I can call exciting. I was a barber. Since then I’ve been a singer. That’s it.

Perry Como died on May 12, 2001 at Jupiter Inlet Colony, Florida. He was suffering from Alzheimer’s at the time of his death.

 

Perry Como was reportedly as casual as he appeared on television. However, he did not like wearing sweaters, even though he was seen wearing sweaters on television.

A list of 587 songs recorded by Perry Como:

http://www.whosdatedwho.com/tpx_25003/perry-como/songs

When I think of his song Round and Round I think of hearing it played at roller skating rink and it was the perfect song for roller skating.

His first #1 song was Till The End of Time in 1945 and his last #1 song was And I Love You So in 1973.

The complete list of his songs that charted:

http://musicvf.com/Perry+Como.art

This album has 100 of Perry’s hits at a reasonable price and a great way to augment your Perry Como collection, without buying several albums.

http://www.amazon.com/100-Hits-Legends-Perry-Como/dp/B002LZUNCW/ref=sr_1_4?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1395524835&sr=1-4&keywords=perry+como

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

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