Featured Artist : PERRY
Perry Como was the most dominant male recording artist during the decade from the mid forties to the mid fifties. His was the voice of the soundtrack of the Interlude Years. So extensive is his story that the years before and after the decade of our interest is covered in detail. That is small tribute to the man who has been a fixture on the American music scene for more than fifty years.
Perry (Pierino) Como was born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania in 1912. In his early years he was a barber and owned his own shop in his hometown. In the early thirties he became a vocalist with the Freddy Carlone band that toured western Pennsylvania, which in turn led to his becoming a featured vocalist with the Ted Weems orchestra in 1936. His first known recording with Weems was on May 15, 1936 "You Can't Pull The Wool Over My Eyes" and "Lazy Weather" on the Decca label. Other vocals with Weems during 1936 include - "Until Today", "Where The Blue Begins", "Darling Not Without You" and with whistler Elmo Tanner - "Lazy Weather", "Fooled By The Moon", "Picture Me Without You", and "Rainbow On The River". The band recorded sporadically during the late thirties-early forties, and Como remained until the band called it quits in mid-1942. During this period a few more examples of early Perry Como vocals were : "Robins And Roses", "Simple And Sweet", "Ad-De-Day", "Class Will Tell", "Goody Goodbye", "Two Blind Loves", "On The Isle Of Catalina", "I Wonder Who"s Kissing Her Now?", "Piccolo Pete", "May I Never Love Again", "It All Comes Back To Me Now", "Rose Of The Rockies", "Deep In The Heart Of Texas", and "Angeline". All were recorded for Decca.
On January 28,1940 the NBC network began a new musical quiz show with audience participation. It was called Beat The Band, and the band in the title was the Ted Weems orchestra including Perry Como. The show ran for one year and was broadcast from the band's home base in Chicago. After the band broke up in 1942 Como worked as a solo performer and for the next year and a half gained popularity as an entertainer in theaters and night clubs around the country. He was able to secure a recording contract with Victor, and by late 1944 was a featured performer on the Chesterfield Supper Club radio program on three of the five nights it was broadcast. His first recordings for the label barely made a dent in the charts. "Goodbye Sue" / "There'll Soon Be A Rainbow" and "Have I Stayed Away Too Long" were released in late 1943. During the summer of 1944 the first of a massive number of hit recordings by Perry Como was released. The tune "Long Ago And Far Away" began the deluge of hits that endured for more than three decades.The song "I Love You" from the show "Mexican Hayride", and "Lili Marlene" were minor sellers. "I Dream Of You" was next, and then two more movie tunes - "More And More" from "Can't Help Singing" and "Temptation" from the film "Going Hollywood". Perry hit paydirt in a big way with a two sided hit - "If I Loved You" / "I'm Gonna Love That Gal" which was a top ten winner from the summer of 1945. The next release was the one that made Perry Como a giant in American popular music for the ages. It was a tune based on Chopin's "Polonaise in A flat", which was a million seller in instrumental form for concert pianist Jose Iturbi, who played the song on the soundtrack of the film "A Song To Remember". Another instrumental version of the melody, this one in pop music style by Carmen Cavallero and his orchestra was also a huge seller in 1945. A pop music vocal version seemed a sure thing, and so came "Till The End Of Time" recorded by Perry Como for Victor. The record was an immediate smash entering the best seller charts on August 9th and staying on through the end of the year. It became the largest selling record of the year and one of the biggest recorded hits of all time up until then. The song was judged to be the most played on radio and number one in sales of sheet music, both important barometers of popularity in 1945. All of these results were said to be directly responsible because of the talents of the vocalist on the recording, Perry Como.
By now the powers that be in the entertainment field realized the potential of the Como popularity, and felt that this could be translated to motion pictures. All of the resulting cinematic efforts were lightweight fare but served to increase the public's awareness of his talent as a vocalist. The first was 1944's "Some thing ForThe Boys" which starred Phil Silvers, Vivian Blaine, and Carman Miranda. In 1946 came "Doll Face" (again starring Vivian Blaine) which provided the hit record "Dig You Later(a-Hubba-Hubba)" and "Here Comes Heaven Again", and the picture"If I'm Lucky" (once again the stock company-Vivian Blaine, Phil Silvers, and Carman Miranda with the Harry James band) providing the title tune and "One More Vote" on RCA Victor, but not a big seller. 1946 however did result in two number one hits-"Prisoner Of Love" the old Russ Colombo standby; and "Surrender" a few months later. His version of the 1918 tune "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" was a million seller that same year coupled with "You Won't Be satisfied". Another moderate hit was one of the many hit tunes from the stage show "Annie get Your Gun", called "They Say It's Wonderful" and the flip side "If You Were The Only Girl In The World". The tune "A garden In The Rain" was not a hit recording, and at Christmas time Perry's version of the seasonal standard "Winter Wonderland" was a modest hit. All in all the year was a big success for the talented vocalist.
1947's first success came after a likewarm reception to "I Want To Thank Your Folks" / "That's Where I Came In", and it was a big two sided hit recording-not an easy accomplishment. "Chi-Baba Chi-Baba" a number one record; and on the flip side once again going back in time with 1898's "When You Were Sweet Sixteen" accounting for a million plus in sales. Keeping up with what sells, once more to the archives with "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now?" from Joe Howard in 1909's 'The Prince Of Tonight', and again a top ten record. The final two releases of 1947 did not fare as well - "So Far" / "A Fellow Needs A Girl" and "Two Loves have I" / "White Christmas".The following year began with more of the same success in mining hit tunes from the early days of the century. The 1902 tune "Because" became another million seller given the Como touch. A song from the stage show "Inside U.S.A." called "Haunted Heart" was a minor effort and "Rambling Rose" did a bit better. "Pianissimo" and "Laroo Laroo Lilli Bolero" were forgettable outings from that year. 1948 was also the year that saw Perry do a turn in the motion picture "Words And Music" -the cinematic story of the song writing team of Rodgers and Hart. Another entertainment medium now beckoned - television, the infant soon to become a giant. The first program was the Chesterfield Supper Club, an extension of the popular radio show of the same name. Like the radio show, the TV version was a three times weekly musical variety show that featured the Fontaine Sisters, the orchestra of Mitchell Ayres( with whom Perry would be paired for most of his career), and announcer Martin Block. The show would run for nearly two years on NBC.
1949 was a tremendous year that resulted in fifteen records on the pop charts, including six in the top ten, and one number one seller. The hit parade started with a cover of Bing Crosby's hit "Far Away Places", a novelty song "N'yot N'yow(The Pussycat Song)", and the swing era standard "Blue Room". The first Perry Como recording released on 45 as well as 78 rpm for RCA Victor was "Forever And Ever" a tremendous seller which stayed on the best seller charts for six months. The flip side did well also-"I Don"t See Me In Your Eyes Anymore". This recording was also the initial pairing of Perry with Mitchell Ayres. Right on the heels of that recording came another top ten seller-"A Your Adorable" written by Buddy Kaye who was responsible for "Till The End Of Time" the first national hit for Perry Como four years earlier. Another two sided hit of massive proportions followed-both tunes from the hit musical "South Pacific". "Bali Hai" made the top ten and the reverse side "Some Enchanted Evening" topped out at the number one spot and was on the best seller charts for over six months. Returning to the tried and true songbook from the early years of the 20th century "Let's Take An Old Fashioned Walk" was a moderate hit and the flip side called "Just One Way To Say I Love You" barely made the charts as did "Give Me Your Hand". The pop tune "A Dreamer's Holiday" was a good seller, but the final two releases of 1949 did not do much - "I Wanna Go Home" and a double sided devotional recording - "Ave Maria" / "The Lord's Prayer".
The year of 1950 saw Perry Como teamed with the Fontaine Sisters on most of the charted records for that year. "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" from the Walt Disney film Cinderella was the first. Next was another up-tempo novelty tune called "Hoop-De-Doo" which was a solid seller for four months. "On The Outgoing Tide" and"I Cross My Fingers" however, didn't do much of anything, but the last of these collaborations was a substantial success-a tune from Irving Berlin's show "Call Me Madam" -"You're Just In Love". The two other charted records for Perry Como during the year were a minor hit as a solo-"Patricia" - and a duet with Betty Hutton on Frank Loesser's song from "Guys And Dolls" -"A Bushel And A Peck". 1950 was also the year that saw the start of the Perry Como Show, a weekly variety show for CBS. The supporting cast was the same- The Fontaine Sisters and the Mitchell Ayres orchestra. The new announcer, Frank Gallop, would stay with Como for the remaining regularly scheduled television shows.The following year was a light one on the hit parade, although it started with a solid number one, million selling release called "If", a song holdover from the early thirties. The reverse side also did reasonably well-"Zing Zing - Zoom Zoom" another bouncy novelty tune. "Hello Young Lovers" from the show "The King And I" and "There's A Big Blue Cloud" barely made it into the lower regions of the pop charts. "Rolling Stone" / "With All My Heart" and the seasonal "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" all recorded with the Fontaine Sisters, made a quick stop on the best seller list.
By the year 1952 it became obvious that television was here to stay and that radio's days were numbered as a major entertainment medium. The Perry Como Show, now a regular staple of night time musical fare, was a good starting point for new recordings and augmented the records to make the Como name an instantly recognizable force in show business. The first RCA Victor release in 1952 was a moderate success called "Tulips And Heather" (also a hit for Vera Lynn in England) coupled with "Please Mr. Sun". The tunes "Noodlin' Rag" and "One Little Candle" barely touched thebest seller list.The next two to make the charts were interesting in that they were duets with a dynamic young singer for the RCA Victor label who was being groomed for stardom-Eddie Fisher. "Maybe" the "A" side did very well, while the other side called "Watermelon Weather" did not. Two more turns with the Fontaines, "My Devotion" and "To Know You Is To Love You" did not do well. Near the end of the year, Perry's recording of "Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes" made it the number one position and sold well over one million copies. It was the 7th number one record and the 27th to make the top ten in sales since 1944. "Stars" was an outstanding performance of a country and western song (originally recorded by one of the writers of the tune-Slim Willett)with an odd rhythmic pattern and an even stranger set of chord changes. These offbeat characteristics made it a natural number one when given the Como style.
The start of the following year produced another unique sound, as it was coming on the heels of "Don't Let the Stars"-this time a dramatic tune (again up tempo) with much of the song in a minor key. The song was called "Wild Horses" and was based on a classical music theme by Schuman called 'The Wild Horsemen". The romantic ballad, one of the styles best suited for Perry Como's vocal style, produced the next big seller "Say Your Mine Again" throughout most of the spring of 1953. An interesting bit of music came next. Originally written by Richard Rodgers for the television documentary Victory At Sea, it appeared in a segment called Beneath The Southern Cross. It was such a beautiful melody (adapted from Chopin's "Etude in E major) that words were added and it became "No Other Love" and was in the stage show "Me And Juliet". The Como version was a five month best seller and just missed the number one position. The next RCA Victor release was a two sided hit-the ballad side "You Alone" sung in English and Italian, and the less successful up tempo novelty side "Papaya Mama" together stayed on the charts during the last two months of the year.
Once again in 1954 Perry Como started out the year with a bang. His first record to hit the charts is a number one million selling disc. The song is "Wanted" and remained on the best seller list for 22 weeks. The next release "A Hit And Run Affair" / "There Never Was A Night So Beautiful" did not last long on the best seller charts. Perry struck gold with the next one though as he rode the mambo craze with a topical tune called "Papa Loves Mambo" that stayed on the charts for more than four months. The flip side even makes the list at number 27. It's called "The Things I Didn't Do". The final chart appearance of the year is the seasonal "Home For The Holidays". By the year of 1955 the rock and roll age is upon us. American popular music will become the music of the teenager and the raucous sounds of rock solidified by Elvis Presley's stardom in one year will bring to an end the dominance of the ballad singer on the charts that has been the case for the previous decade, at least. During the year Perry Como will move his TV variety show into the big time with an hour show on NBC on Saturday night (which will be known sometimes as Saturday Night With Mr. C.), and remain a top rated television program. It is an indication of the direction of pop music in the country when Perry's biggest selling recording of the year is a cover of a rock hit, "Kokomo" (originally by the duo of Gene and Eunice). "Tina Marie" also sold well and the flip side called "Fooled" even managed a brief stop on the charts. "All At Once You Love Her" from the stage show "Pipe Dream" was a moderate hit, and the final recording to make the best sellers but briefly, was a duet with Jaye P. Morgan of "Chee Chee Oo Chee / Two Lost Souls" from "Damn Yankees".
In the ensuing years of the late fifties, the rock and roll juggernaut totally dominated the record buying public, but there were still enough die hard fans of the standard pop vocalists to hit the best seller lists now and then, but as was evident, the halcyon days of the romantic balladeer were gone forever. In 1956 Perry scored with "Hot Diggety" a novelty tune, the kind he had found success with before, and it was a chart smash. It sold over a million and was on the best sellers list for more than five months. The B side was an attempt to ride the trend in pop music, a tune called "Juke Box Baby" which had moderate sales. A two sided hit followed - "More" / "Glendora" which combined topped the million mark and remained on the charts for four months. The song from the movie of the same name - "Somebody Up There Likes Me", did very little at the sales counter. Another up tempo tune bucked the rock trend in 1957 - "Round And Round" an uptempo tune with a dramatic framing device made the heralded number one position and the million mark in sales. Two more releases that year did fair to middling on the charts - "The Girl With The Golden Braids" and the two sided recording of "Ivy Rose" and "Just Born To Be Your Baby". The great popularity of the Saturday night TV show helped propel Perry Como among the very few that could still deliver when it came to record sales not specifically aimed at the teenage market. Most of the pop music vocalists not in the rock mode were concentrating on recording LP albums and giving up the singles market entirely. Como had good success during the year of 1958. An atmospheric catchy tune called "Catch A Falling Star" was a major hit making the top ten and remaining on the charts for 5 1/2 months and earning Perry Como the newly designated Grammy award for best vocal performance (male) for the year. The strength of this recording is further attested to by the fact that the flip side called "Magic Moments" also charted for four months. "Kewpie Doll" was a top twenty record and remained on the best sellers for 15 weeks, and the flip side called "Dance Only With Me" from the stage musical "Say Darling" made the top twenty for one week."I May Never Pass This Way Again" did not do well initially, but over the next three years sold continually well enough to pass the million mark eventually.
In late 1959 plans were made to shift the Perry Como television show to Tuesday evenings. The show would be known as the Kraft Music Hall. On record 1959 was not a banner year as Perry also realized that single releases would from now on only come as excerpts from LP albums already in release. The most promising records of the year "Tomboy" and "I Know" were practically invisible. In 1960 however the tune "Delaware", like the old camp song utilizing the names of states in pun-like lyrics did well on the charts and eventually sold over one million copies. The television show for Kraft lasted until 1963, and that was the end of the regularly scheduled programs. Perry went to a yearly number of specials for NBC, usually one each season for the year. As for recordings, every so often we would see a Como surprise-a hit single, surely not like in the heydays of the late 40's and early 50's but hanging in there anyway. In 1962 it was "Caterina", and the following year "Don't You Forget It" barely surfaced on the top forty list. 1965 gave us "Dream On Little Dreamer" which peaked at number 25. In 1969 it was the upbeat "Seattle" from the TV show "Here Come The Brides" about that city. In 1970 "It's Impossible" not only charted in the top thirty but went on to sell one million records ! Then in 1973, again astounding the pop music world, Perry did well with "And I Love You So", almost thirty years after his first charted recording !
Beginning in 1955 Perry Como also recorded LP albums in addition to the single releases. Like the 78 and then 45 singles, all were on the RCA label. The first "So Smooth" in 1955 was a top ten seller. In 1957 three LP's were released-"We Get Letters" a top ten seller; "Merry Christmas Music" a top ten and gold record award winner; and "Dream Along With Me". The following year saw "Saturday Night With Mr. C." and "Como's Golden Records" a compilation album of top hit singles. "When You Come To The End Of The Day" and "Como Swings" were 1959 albums. The following year was the first year on the charts for "Season's Greetings" a gold record seller over the years. "By Request" came out in 1962, and it was almost a decade before the next album to enter the best seller charts. "It's Impossible" featuring the great single of the same name did well, and the final charting album was 1973's "And I Love You So" which was a gold record seller and highlighted the tune of the title.
Three decades as a top selling recording artist including 20 records that sold over one million, and 39 records that charted in the top ten including nine that reached the number one position. Those are some of the awesome numbers posted by Perry Como during his career, most of them during the Interlude Years of 1946-1955. This will explain why he was the most dominant performer during that time, and why he set the standard against which all other performers of that era are measured.
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