June 29, 1953
Perry Como is one of the blue-chip men of the crooning business; in ten years his records have sold close to 35 million copies. Most of his hits have been well-mannered, smoothly sung ballad numbers, such as Prisoner of Love, I'm Always Chasing Rainbows, If. And until two years ago, he had his regular share of smash successes (1,000,000 records or more) with this formula. Then Perry hit a slump.
His best new numbers were selling only about 200,000 to 300,000 copies, and while such sales would be seventh heaven to many a singer, they made Como think. Last summer he was talked into dropping in on some of the dealers around the country on the days when the big jukebox buyers were going over the new records. "They'd put a record on for only four or eight bars, and then take it off. I said, 'What's this?' " The jukebox buyers told him that they were listening for tunes which opened with loud but short introductions, and then carried on with snappy tempos. To Como, who favored slow tunes, long introductions and a big finish, this was a revelation.
Back in Manhattan, where he records for RCA Victor, Como did a song called Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes. It had a blaring introduction and a frantic Latin rhythm. The jukebox operators ate it up; so did individual record buyers. Stars sold a walloping 1,500,000 copies, and Como was out of the slump. Since then, he has tried to pepper his regular output of ballads with such offbeat songs as the galloping Wild Horses (TIME, March 16). For these special numbers, says Como, "instead of building up to a climax, I build down."
This week Como, 41, onetime barber in Canonsburg, Pa., celebrated his tenth year as a recording singer, devoted his CBS television program to a roundup of his hit songs. He plans to use his old style whenever he feels like it, and the same with the new. But "I'll sing anything my fans want me to sing. If I don't, I might as well go back to the barbershop."
Telephone: (902) 698-9848