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Since my family only received NBC affiliate KARK out of Little Rock,
Arkansas, I only remember the Perry Como Show from its hour-long format
beginning in 1955 and running on Saturday nights from 7:00 pm until
8:00 pm CST through 1959. It then changed to Wednesday nights at 8:00
pm until it left the air in 1963. It was a program I seldom missed,
especially during its first few seasons.
The reader might be surprised at the number of hit records Perry Como released in the 1940's and 1950's. Often he charted several songs at the same time. Even with the advent of rock 'n' roll, Perry continued placing songs at the top of the pop charts. He used his show to introduce and to promote his recordings. I remember such hits as "Round and Round," "Hot Diggity," "Catch a Falling Star," and "Magic Moments" being sung for the first time on his show.
His program was almost as easy-going as his crooning. He would begin with "Dream along with me, I'm on my way to a star...." then chat for a few minutes with the studio audience and the viewers at home in a relaxed manner reminding many of President Franklin Roosevelt's famous fireside chats only with much less gravity.
Frank Gallop was the announcer with a deep voice, contrary to Perry's, who always confronted Perry from offstage with some sort of humorous dilemma. Frank became so popular with Perry's fans that he even released a few comedy recordings himself, such as the hilarious "The Ballad of Irving."
One part of the Perry Como Show that was well received by the viewers was the "We get letters" segment each week. A bevy of beauties would serenade Perry with "Letters, we get letters, we get stacks and stacks of letters!" Perry would then attempt to comply with a request from a home viewer, usually a particular song the writer wanted Perry to sing.
Perry's show was such a phenomenal hit that he was able to attract big name guests which made the show even more appealing. Perry would joke around with the guests who in turn would make amusing quips, for example, one guest called him "Perry Coma." Another would comment on Perry being a barber before becoming a singer and so on; all in fun and the audience loved it.
Perry always tried to end on a serious note, usually doing a religious or inspirational type selection. The closing theme was, "You Are Never Far Away." Perry was assisted by the Ray Charles Singers (not the famous soul musician, Ray Charles) and the Louis Da Pron Dancers.
Though I was in my early teens and an avid rock 'n' roll fan, I still enjoyed watching The Perry Como Show as one of the finest variety shows on the tube at the time.
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.
I am a native of Canonsburg, PA, the hometown of Perry Como. My mother
knew him when they were children, and his sister, Venzie, was my
mother's best friend the last thirty-five years of their lives. When I
was in second grade, Perry came to Pittsburgh to broadcast his show
from the Civic Arena. The morning of the broadcast, Venzie called my
mother up to ask us to come over before school began. We lived next
door to her at the time, and we immediately ran next door, only to meet
Perry himself. When we addressed him as Mister Como, he told us to call
him Uncle Perry. From that moment on, we always called him that. We
went to the Arena that night and I saw my first television show, live.
It was one of those childhood memories I will never forget. Thanks, Uncle Perry.
In 1957, NBC was occasionally showing TV color on some of their shows. I remember seeing the ad for one particular color show that year where they headlined...Color TV and Hedy, too..or something to that effect. I searched high and low for a place that had color TV to view it, but the only ones that i did come across were in bars and I was not of the proper age..so I had to settle for the black and white version. It turned out that Hedy, according to the critics of that day, was 'the' show. She was in almost every scene, from a walk on as a cigarette girl, to an old lady with s slight hunchback and then at the finale, playing drums and singing with Perry the hit of that day..."Round and Round". It was really an excellent show and what really surprised me, was Hedy lamarr. I had never seen her this way and she was wonderful as the critics claimed. She must of been around 42 years old at that time. I would love to see that show again. Are any of his shows on DVD?
SCTV has a hilarious Perry Como concert. See YouTube.com at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1yvS_m_7eE If the link doesn't work, look for "SCTV Perry Como" at YouTube. Includes Eugene Levy, John Candy, Dave Thomas, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, the Juul Halmeyer Dancers et al. SCTV has a hilarious Perry Como concert. See YouTube.com at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1yvS_m_7eE If the link doesn't work, look for "SCTV Perry Como" at YouTube. Includes Eugene Levy, John Candy, Dave Thomas, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, the Juul Halmeyer Dancers et al. SCTV has a hilarious Perry Como concert. See YouTube.com at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1yvS_m_7eE If the link doesn't work, look for "SCTV Perry Como" at YouTube. Includes Eugene Levy, John Candy, Dave Thomas, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, the Juul Halmeyer Dancers et al.
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