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Perry Como

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BIOGRAPHY

Perry Como was born Pierino Ronald Como in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania on May 18, 1912, the son of Pietro Como, a mill hand, and Lucia Travaglini Como, immigrants from Palena, Italy. The seventh of thirteen children, Perry Como earned a few cents a day working after school in a local barbershop in Canonsburg. Later, while attending high school, he operated his own barbershop. Como, performing at wedding receptions and other functions, gained local recognition for his singing ability. One of the few vocalists of his generation to read music, he played both organ and baritone horn.

Vacationing in Cleveland in 1933, Como auditioned for Freddie Carlone’s band and was hired at twenty-five dollars a week. That same year Como married his high school sweetheart, Roselle Belline, the daughter of French immigrants; they had three children, whom they sheltered from the celebrity world of show business. “Roselle always stood by me,” Como remarked. She died in August 1998, two weeks after celebrating their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary.
Como’s popularity skyrocketed in the late 1930s after he became the featured vocalist with the Ted Weems orchestra. When the Weems band broke up in the early 1940s, NBC offered him a contract to share star billing with singer Jo Stafford on the Chesterfield Supper Club, a radio show broadcast Mondays through Fridays. Como usually sang romantic ballads during each broadcast. When that show came to Friday night television in the late 1940s Como continued to be a featured vocalist, supported by the Mitchell Ayres Orchestra and the Fontane Sisters.

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