Perry Como Dies at 88 in Florida
Updated 3:36 PM ET May 13, 2001
BEACH (Reuters) - Singer Perry Como, whose career
stretched from the 1930s to the 1980s, died on Saturday
at his home in Florida, The Palm Beach Post reported. He was 88.
The newspaper cited his daughter Terry
as saying the veteran crooner died in his sleep
at his home in Jupiter Inlet Beach Colony.
Como, who started out serenading customers
in a barber shop,
soared to fame with a relaxed singing style that endured from
the swing era of the 1930s to the rock-drenched 1980s.
Although he appeared in a few Hollywood
musicals in the
1940s, it was on television that he really felt at home,
and he achieved enormous popularity on the small screen.
Como embarked at 21 upon a career as
a professional entertainer,
eventually leading to a $25 million television contract
and sales of well over 50 million records.
He had his first hit record in 1945
with "Till The End of Time" --
one of more than a dozen million sellers.
By the end of the 1940s,
Como had become a superstar with easy
listening ballads such as "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes,"
"Catch a Falling Star" and "It's Impossible" --
one of his few hits that failed to reach the million mark.
Other records that sold a million were
"Prisoner of Love,"
"Hot Diggity," "Because," "And I Love You So,"
"Hubba-Hubba-Hubba," "Wanted," "Temptation," "When
You Were Sweet 16," "Papa Loves Mambo,"
"Round and Round" and "If."
His voice improved with age. In 1975,
he visited Britain for
his first concert tour anywhere doing a grueling 19
concerts in just under three weeks, all of them sold out.
KEPT AUDIENCES HYPNOTIZED
relaxed singing style enabled him to fall about as
far behind the beat as it is possible to go, creating a sort
of perpetual tension that kept audiences hypnotized.
In 1943, Como signed his first recording
RCA Victor and stayed with the label for decades.
He was voted best vocalist in a magazine
poll in 1953 and received
an Emmy award from the television industry in 1956
for the long-running "Perry Como Show."
Como's ability to sit on a stool and
sing or chat
with an audience was considered unmatchable.
Pierino Roland Como was born in Canonsburg,
on May 18, 1912, the seventh son of a seventh son, a
traditional sign of luck in Italian families.
He had loving memories of his parents,
who "raised 13
children on $35 a week and
taught us we were our brothers' keepers."
He was apprenticed as a barber at the
age of 12 and
soon afterward learned the trade. By the age of 21,
he was a full-time barber with his own shop.
His customers were not only shaved and
barbered but entertained
with many of the popular songs of 1933.
Some were musicians who came to town with traveling bands
and, through them, Como was offered a job with a dance band.
He married his childhood sweetheart
and soon after won national
exposure while touring the country as a featured singer
with the Ted Weems band. The couple had three children.
Como retired briefly in the early 1970s
but could not resist going
back to work and, well into his 60s, had more hit records.
In 1980, 1982 and 1984 he was the host
of Christmas specials
on television, broadcast from Israel, Paris and London, respectively.