Perry Como's 100th on 'Believe Your Ears'

Wednesday, 11 July 2012 03:45 PM Written by 

This week's "Believe Your Ears" music podcast salutes the 100th Birthday of Canonsburg's own Perry Como. His birthday was in May, but we wanted to wait to give it the treatment it merits.  The podcast, one of our longer ones, includes selected high points from his 44 year recording career with RCA.  You can find it here.   And there's video below.

Como left the Freddie Carlone Orchestra in 1936 to join the nationally-known Ted Weems Orchestra as vocalist.  Weems, a band that was in the middle between swing and sweet band, had nationwide popularity that established Como over his six years (1936-42) in the band. You can hear it on this 1938 recording of "Sunday In The Park." 

This is his animated 1939 rendition of "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now."

Como's fame surged during World War II.   In 1945 he shot this film appearance singing his post-VJ Day hit "Dig You Later (Hubba, Hubba, Hubba)" with actress Martha Stewart in the 1945 film Doll Face.

Como had some interesting folks on his show. And to his credit, when he presented early rock acts, he avoided the kind of snarky condescension they got from the likes of Steve Allen.  Here's proof from Fats Domino's 1957 guest shot.

And the Everly Brothers.   He later recorded the Everly hit "Walk Right Back" in Nashville.

Here he is with his earliest musical role model Bing Crosby, from March 16, 1960, making some mild jokes about rock--and about the songs of their own generation.

The Como Show same year, with Pittsburgh jazz legend Lena Horne, performing a "bird" medley of "Bob White, Whatcha Gonna Sing Tonight?" "The Cuckoo in the Clock," "Yellow Bird" "Listen to the Mockingbird" and "When The Red Red Robin Comes Bob-Bob-Bobbin' Along."

Como presented Bossa Nova music on Kraft Music Hall. There was this 1962 segment featuring Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz from 1962 performing "Desfinado" a track from their then brand-new album. Jazz Samba, which helped establish Bossa Nova music in America, paving the way for Getz's later successes like "Girl From Ipanema" with Astrid Gilberto.

An interesting footnote to Como's TV career: The Como TV show was produced in the same space that later housed the famous (and notorious) disco Studio 54 with some flashbacks from his NBC program, which began as Chesterfield Supper Club, became the Perry Como Show and finally moved him to host of the Kraft Music Hall.  "Sing to Me, Mr. C," was a regular segment of the 50's show.

In the early 1980's SCTV spoofed Como in a Disco context (at the "Civic Arena," no doubt an in-joke from SCTV cast member and former Pittsburgher Joe Flaherty). Eugene Levy, later of the "American Pie" series and Christopher Guest films,  is doing Como.  It's worth noting that no one enjoyed this sketch more than Perry himself.




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