Who could ever forget the unforgettable
nice guy of song, ‘Mr. C.’? There were no songs that he could not sing
without passion and feeling. His delivery of a song was mainstream
all the way. Perry Como, became a household legend in our living
rooms with his easy style of delivering a song. He made the transfer
to television in 1948 as host of "The Chesterfield Supper Club" a 15-minute,
three-nights-a week show he had been doing on radio for four years. From
1950 to 1955, his 15-minute "The Perry Como Show" was broadcast on CBS.
From 1955 to 1959, an expanded version with the same title appeared on
NBC. From then until 1963, his weekly television show was "The Kraft
Music Hall." At that point, he quit "the weekly grind" and opted for occasional
specials taped from various parts of the world. He won Emmy Awards in 1954,
1955, 1956, and 1958-59. In 1956, he also won a Christopher Award and was
named Variety Club's Personality of the year.
Perry Como was born Pierino Ronald Como on
May 18, 1912 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, he was the seventh son of a seventh
son in a family of 13 children, and he started helping out in the local
barber shop to earn extra money for the family at the age of 10.
At 14, with no professional barber school training, he had his own shop
with two barbers working for him. He worked there after school well
into the nights. The young Perry Como was also playing the Sousaphone
in the town marching band.
It was while he was cutting hair in his own
barber show that he began to sere-nade his customers with the popular songs
of the day. It was his friends in 1933 who encouraged Perry to pursue
a career in singing, and it wasn’t long before he decided to audition as
a vocalist with the Freddy Carlone’s dance band for $28.00 a week, in Lorain,
Ohio. This was the beginning of his career that launched him on his
way to a star.
In 1933, his greatest supportive fan was his
childhood sweetheart Roselle Bel-line, who he married. It was a successful
happy marriage that lasted for 65 years. It was while he was married
that Como toured with the band for three years through Pennsylvania, West
Virginia, and Ohio until one night in a gambling ca-sino in Warren, Ohio,
he struck luck--on stage, not at the tables. Band leader Ted Weems
happened to be there. "Ted played the 'double o' in roulette and
it came in," Como recalled later. "Then he came downstairs where we were
working and he heard me sing. Art Jarrett has just left him, so he
offered me the job." A change came in a jump in salary to $50 a week,
and for the next six years, Como's life was a series of one-night stands
across the country, with a few radio shows and record dates thrown in.
Perry almost went back to cutting hair in December 1943 when Ted Weems
entered the armed forces to serve in World War II and the or-chestra disbanded.
He was negotiating a lease for the barber shop in Canonsburg when he got
an offer from CBS to star in his own radio show.
That same year, established with his wife and
their three-year-old son and a 15-minute nightly radio show in New York,
he landed engagements at the popular Copacabana and Versaille nightclubs
and the Paramount and Strand Theaters. He also signed a recording
contract with RCA Victor Recording Company.
His first single was "Goodbye Sue," but it
was not until two years later that he had his first million-seller, "Till
the End of Time." His subsequent hits included "Hubba-Hubba-Hubba,"
"Because," "Temptation," "Prisoner of Love," "Wanted," "Don't Let the Stars
Get in Your Eyes," "Papa Loves Mambo," "Hot Diggity," "Round and Round,"
"Catch a Falling Star" (for which he won the first Grammy in 1958 as Best
Male Singer), "It's Impossible," and his theme,"Dream Along with Me (I'm
on My Way to a Star)." By 1946, he ranked number three in the nation (right
after Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra) in a Downbeat poll. Al-though
he appeared in several motion pictures during the 1940s, Something for
the Boys, Doll Face, and If I'm Lucky (all co-starring Vivian Blaine and
Carmen Mi-randa) and Words and Music, it was with his recordings, radio,
and television that he made his impact. In addition to the occasional
special, Como has, in recent years, headlined in person concerts in Las
Vegas and in arenas ranging from Westbury, Long Island to Australia.
His crooning style of ballad singing has en-abled generations to "dream
along" with him and believe for a while that they, too, were on their way
"to a star."