… he died on May 12, 2001 when he was 88 years-old.
Pietro “Perry” Como was born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. He was the seventh of 13 children of Italian immigrants. He did not begin speaking English until he entered school, since the Comos spoke Italian at home.
The family had a second-hand organ Pietro had bought for $3; as soon as Perry was able to toddle, he would head to the instrument, pump the bellows, and play music he had heard by ear. His father, a mill hand and an amateur baritone, had all his children attend music lessons even if he could barely afford them. Como learned to play many different instruments, but never had a voice lesson.
Young Perry started helping his family at age 10, working before and after school in Steve Fragapane's barber shop for 50¢ a week.
Perry showed more musical talent in his teenage years as a trombone player in the town's brass band, playing guitar, singing at weddings, and as an organist at church. Despite this musical ability, Como's primary ambition was to become a barber. Training on his father, young Como mastered the skills well enough to have his own shop at age 14. He was a member of the Canonsburg Italian Band along with the father of singer Bobby Vinton.
In 1932, Como left Canonsburg, moving about 100 miles away to Meadville, Pennsylvania, where his uncle had a barber shop in the Hotel Conneaut. Perry, his future wife and friends visited the Silver Slipper Ballroom where Freddy Carlone and his orchestra were playing.
Carlone invited anyone who thought he might have singing talent to come up and sing with his band. Young Como was terrified, but his friends urged him onto the stage. The young man impressed Carlone and offered him a job as a singer. He returned to Canonsburg to talk the matter over with his father. Perry expected he would tell him to stay in the barber business, but to his surprise, the senior Como told him if he did not try this, he would never know whether or not he could be a professional singer.
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His combined success on television and popular recordings was not matched by any other artist of the time. A popular television performer and recording artist, Perry Como produced numerous hit records with record sales so high the label literally stopped counting at Como's insistence. His weekly television shows and seasonal specials were broadcast throughout the world and his popularity seemingly had no geographical or language boundaries.
Como's appeal spanned generations and he was widely respected for both his professional standards and the conduct in his personal life. In the official RCA Records Billboard magazine memorial, his life was summed up in these few words: "50 years of music and a life well lived. An example to all."
One of the many factors in his success was Como's insistence on his principles of good taste. For example, while his performance of "Ave Maria" was a tradition of his holiday television programs, Como refused to sing it at live performances, saying, "It's not the time or place to do it.,” even though it was the number one request of his audiences.
Another personal quality of Como was his naturalness; the man viewers saw on the screen was the same person who could be encountered behind a supermarket shopping cart, at a bowling alley, or in a kitchen making breakfast. From his first Chesterfield Supper Club television show, if scripts were written at all, they were based on Como’s natural speech pattern.
Unbeknownst to most, Como did have a temper. His music director from 1948 – 1963, Mitchell Ayres, said, "Perry has a temper like everyone else. And he loses his temper at the normal things everyone else does. When we're driving, for instance, and somebody cuts him off, he really lets the offender have it."
Como received five Emmys from 1955 to 1959, and a Christopher Award in 1956. He shared a Peabody Award with good friend Jackie Gleason in 1956.
Como was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 1990 and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1987.
Como died in his sleep on May 12, 2001 at his home in Jupiter Inlet Colony, Florida, six days before his eighty-ninth birthday. He was reported to have suffered from symptoms of Alzheimer's disease during the final two years of his life.
Posthumously, Como received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002; he was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2007.
Como has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in radio, television, and music.