When Perry Como left the Ted Weems Band and went out on his own as a singer he was up against some mighty stiff competition. Bing Crosby was the singing king of the mountain in 1943 and he had a couple of heavy pretenders to the throne with Frank Sinatra and Dick Haymes. Those guys also came out of big bands as vocalists and were making a name for themselves in films as well. Perry tried movie acting, but even his biggest fans conceded he was no actor.
But that little entertainment box that was making it's appearance in American homes post World War II turned out to be his salvation and the thing that really launched his career. NBC hired him to do the Kraft Music Hall as it moved from radio to television and Perry's career was made. All those other guys never took off in television the way Perry Como did.
Perry was a regular in millions of American homes from the Truman to the Johnson presidencies. He used the power of the television to promote his brand of music and successfully competed in record sales with that new brand of music, rock and roll. Competed in many ways also, listen to his version of Elvis Presley's Can't Help Falling In Love With You, the barber singer from Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania matched the king note for note.
It might surprise you to learn his record sales both in volume and in number of gold record hits far surpasses Frank Sinatra and Dick Haymes. He's not quite up there with Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley or the Beatles but it's a pretty respectable total. He introduced such hits as Wanted, Round and Round, Caterina, Magic Moments, Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes, Papa Loves Mambo all on his television shows.
As a kid I remember Saturday night NBC demolished the competition as at every station break during the week announcers hawked the triple threat variety hours of COMO, CAESAR, GOBEL. I can't remember who was on opposite this lineup, I'm sure CBS and ABC didn't put much effort into Saturday night mid Fifties.
Perry was so smooth and relaxed it was like having a favorite uncle in your house every weekend to entertain. He did it all on talent and personality. He was never fodder for the tabloid scandal mongers at any time in his career from the day he left his barber shop to go on the road until age and infirmity finally forced him to retire.
Even after his show ran it's course and NBC had another class variety show hosted by another of Perry's contemporaries, Dean Martin, Como still went on with specials and guest appearances for years. The public never grew tired of him.
And even now Perry still sounds great when you listen to his MANY records. I wish you could sing to us again Mr. C.
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