One of the most popular
vocalists between the end of World War II and the rise of rock & roll
in the mid-'50s, Perry Como
perfected the post-big band approach to pop music, performing popular hits of the day on radio, TV, and LP. Both his early traditional crooning style plus his later relaxed manner and focus on novelty material were heavily indebted to Bing Crosby, though Como's appeal during the early '50s was virtually unrivalled. Born in 1912 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, Como was working as a singing barber in his hometown when he began touring with local bandleader Freddie Carlone at the age of 21. By the mid-'30s, he got his big break with Ted Weems & His Orchestra, who headed a popular radio show named Beat the Band. After the orchestra broke up in 1942, Como hosted a regional CBS radio show
later called Supper Club. The show's success gained him a contract with RCA Victor Records by 1943, and he also began working in Hollywood with Something to Shout About and Something for the Boys.
Perry Como's real
big break came with the 1945 film A Song to Remember. His rendition of
"Till the End of Time" spent ten weeks at the top of the charts and
became the biggest hit of the year. Como's dreamy baritone worked
especially well on ballads, such as the additional 1945-47 number
one hits "Prisoner of Love," "Surrender" and "Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba (My Bambino
Go to Sleep)." Hired by NBC for another radio show in 1948, Como
crossed over to the emerging medium of television that same year
with the Chesterfield Supper Club. The show quickly took off, moving
from one night per week to at least three, and eventually earned him four Emmy Awards. Though he stuck mostly to ballads on the show, Como also began to engage in light novelty fare, with titles comprising mostly nonsense syllables -- "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Doo," "Hoop-Dee-Doo," "Pa-Paya Mama" and "Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)."
Though his breezy form of pop music had worked well at the beginning of the decade, Como's appeal began to wane towards the end of the 1950s, with the emergence of rock & roll and the wave of teen idols. His last number one hit, "Catch a Falling Star," came in 1958. Como was much less visible during the 1960s, but returned in 1970 with his first live show in over two decades, and a world tour to follow; a single ("It's Impossible") even made the Top Ten in late 1970. Como continued to record LPs and television specials while making scattered appearances during the 1970s and '80s.