Volume Two Notes
RCA VICTOR VPS-6067
Now at an age when other singing idols have gone into varied business ventures or are in retirement, Perry Como continues to do exactly what he's been doing for the past thirty years — cut hit records, appear in night clubs and star on television shows.
Though Perry Como has always been the casual one, his professional longevity cannot be attributed solely to his relaxed, cardigan sweater style. He has remained a headline attraction for so many years simply because, apart from his vocal talent, he has always projected the image of a warm, genial chap who thoroughly likes what he's doing and believes in every word he sings. Nothing is ever forced or exaggerated. Everything is under control. Everything is real.
Since the man behind the songs comes through so winningly, it is not surprising that this fellow with the easygoing voice leads an easygoing life. He is married to the same girl he wed close to forty years ago. A round of golf is his idea of pure pleasure. And apart from the necessity of an occasional trip in connection with his career, he is most content to stay close to family and home. Listening to him sing, we cannot fail to appreciate the singular quality of a man who not only enjoys the good life but is only too happy to share some of that enjoyment with everyone.
For Perry Como, this good life did not begin in affluence or idleness. His immigrant father, Pietro Como, came to this country from Italy to work in the steel mills around Canonsburg, in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania. Perry — born Pierino Ronald Como — was the seventh son of a seventh son (though, in all, there were thirteen children). Because they were poor, all the Como kids helped out by working after school, and Perry, when only eleven, was hired by a local barbershop owner to perform such tasks as sweeping the floor and stropping razors. Within a few years, the ambitious lad had learned enough of the barber's trade to become a professional; by the time he was fifteen he had become so self-confident that he opened his own shop.
Perry built up a good business and remained a barber for six years. Though he succeeded well enough financially, he still wanted something more. He wanted to become a professional singer. At the urging of friends, he traveled to Lorain, Ohio, to audition as vocalist with Freddy Carlone's dance band. Without waiting for the verdict, Perry returned to Canonsburg for an even more important occasion, his marriage to his childhood sweetheart, Roselle Belline. Only four days later he was faced with the most serious dilemma of his life. Carlone got in touch with him to make him a firm offer to tour with the band. It was great news until the matter of money came up, and Perry found out that he would be singing for the munificent sum of $28 per week. Since he had just been married and since he was then, in the depths of the depression, earning more than four times that amount cutting hair, Perry was tempted to turn down the offer. On the other hand, it was a chance to begin a new career in a field that he loved, and with more than a few misgivings he decided to take the plunge.
Perry toured with Carlone's band, mostly through Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, for three years. One night in 1936 bandleader Ted Weems was at a gambling casino in Warren, Ohio, where Carlone was providing the music. As Perry has recalled, "Ted played the 'double o' in roulette and it came in. Then he came downstairs where we were working and he heard me sing. Art Jarrett had just left him, so he offered me the job." Perry took it — at a jump in salary to $50 per week. For the next six years life for Perry Como was a series of one-night stands clear across the country, occasional radio shows and a few record dates. But despite the nomadic life which he hated, he enjoyed working with the band chiefly because Weems made a specialty of featuring his singers (another vocalist, Marvell Maxwell, later had a successful Hollywood career as Marilyn Maxwell). In 1942, because the war was restricting travel and drafting musicians, Weems was forced to disband his orchestra. With no other singing jobs available, Perry returned to Canonsburg resigned to the fact that his nine year show business career was ended, and that it was time once again to start sharpening his scissors and cleaning his combs.
But before he returned to barbering, he got a call from his agent: CBS wanted him for a radio series at $100 per week. This was without the constant traveling that had been necessary during his band-vocalist days.
So Perry settled in New York and did well enough over the air to get a contract with Victor records. His first recording, "Goodbye Sue," wasn't exactly a runaway hit, but two years later, with "Till the End of Time," the singer had the first of what would be an almost endless string of best sellers.
The unflappable Mr. C. was now clicking in almost every medium of entertainment. He enchanted the swank crowds at the Versailles and Copacabana nightclubs in New York. He scored big with the kids at the Paramount Theatre on Broadway. His weekly radio show — the Chesterfield Supper Club — lasted until 1955 when he switched over to television and became a top-rated attraction for twelve years. In the mid-'40s he even tried Hollywood, making three films for 20th Century-Fox: "Something for the Boys," "Doll Face" and "If I'm Lucky," all of them, curiously, co-starring Vivian Blaine and Carmen Miranda. (A fourth film, the Rodgers and Hart biography "Words and Music" was made by M-G-M.)
It is, however, primarily as a recording star that Perry Como has built his reputation and most lasting fame. In this current collection, "This Is Perry Como, Volume 2," there is a rich sampling of old songs, ballads and rhythm numbers, all culled from among his most enduring renditions . Here is the dedicate charm of "Try to Remember," the loping beat of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," the perky philosophy of "Happiness Comes, Happiness Goes," the touching sentiment of "Sunrise, Sunset," and the compelling emotion of "Manhã de Carnaval." Here, too, are Perry's more recent hits, "It's Impossible" and "I Think Of You," further proof, if any be needed, that Perry Como has the staying power to still be where he should be — at the top of the charts.Stanley Green ( Mr. Green, a former pop record reviewer, is the author of Ring Bells! Sing Songs! Broadway Musicals in the 1930s )
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