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8.120599 - COMO, Perry: Some Enchanted Evening (1939-1949)
“Some Enchanted Evening” Original 1939-1949 Recordings
Ranking among the top pop singers of the 1940s and 1950s, Perry Como held his own throughout his 60-year career against a phalanx of rivals headed by Frank Sinatra. The ‘man who invented casual’ crooned melodiously until well into his eighties by which time he had sold an estimated 60 million records. Renowned for his especially amiable, relaxed (some even said somnambulant) delivery, like Sinatra Perry focused, at least in his earlier years, special attention on the lyrics of his songs. The one-time star of his own $25 million TV series and “Crooning King of the Christmas Special”, he died with an impressive collection of Emmys and Grammys to his credit.
Pierino Roland Como was born in Third Street (now Perry Como Avenue), Canonsburg, Philadelphia on 18th May, 1912, the seventh of thirteen children of first-generation immigrant Italians Pietro and Lucia Como. His father, a steel mill-worker, was not especially well paid, and to supplement the family’s meagre income, from the age of eleven Pierino worked as a barber’s assistant. Having quickly learned his trade, however, at fourteen he was already a skilled barber who serenaded his clients for amusement. Subsequently, he built up his own hairdressing business, and was equally interested in barbershop singing when, in 1933, he married his childhood sweetheart, Roselle Bellini.
That same year Perry won an amateur singing contest and, reputedly at Roselle’s instigation (and certainly with her blessing), the 21-year-old crooner successfully auditioned for Freddy Carlone’s touring band. He always maintained he never enjoyed touring because it took him away from his family but, as ‘Nick Perido’, he nonetheless stuck to his new career and toured the Midwest with Carlone until 1936, when he was heard singing in an Ohio casino by bandleader Ted Weems (1901-1963). Born Wilfred Theodore Weymes in Pitcairn, Philadelphia, Weems, who had formed his first band in a Philadelphia café as far back as 1922, for many years fronted a popular band in Chicago. He took his latest ‘novice’ under his wing and featured him as a soloist on radio until the band broke up in 1942, when Ted entered the US Armed Forces. Their 1939 recording of the 1909 ballad “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now” became a US No.2 hit in 1947 when it was revived as the title-song of the 20th Century Fox Joseph E. Howard biopic.
In 1942 Perry signed with the General Amusement Corporation and thereafter pursued a coast-to-coast solo career in night-clubs and theatres. In 1943 he signed a recording contract with RCA-Victor (with whom he would remain for the next 50 years) and that same year began a seven-year contract with 20th Century-Fox – he partnered former night-club singer Vivian Blaine in the musicals Something For The Boys (1944), Doll Face (1945) and If I’m Lucky (1946). After being released at his own request from the Fox contract in 1947, he made one last brave attempt to become a movie star in the MGM Rodgers & Hart biopic Words And Music (1948).
His first US charted hit recordings (1943-1944) were followed in 1945 by Marjorie Goetschius and Edna Osser’s “I Dream Of You” (at No. 10) and a revival of the 1930 Doc Dougherty–Ellis Reynolds standard “I’m Confessin’” (at No.12). His first No.1 “Till The End Of Time” (a parody on Chopin’s A flat polonaise, featured in the film A Song To Remember) and the No.3 “If I Loved You” became his first million-selling discs during the same week of 1946.
Perry’s other hits of 1946 included Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed’s “Temptation” (a No.21 revival of a hit first aired by Bing Crosby in the 1933 film Going Hollywood), “If You Were The Only Girl In The World” (at No.14, this was a revival of a Nat D. Ayer–Joseph Meyer standard originally featured in the show Bing Boys Are Here, in 1915) and “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” (another Chopin adaptation – and Golden Disc – at No.5) in addition to two more No.1s (the first a million-selling revival of the 1931 Russ Columbo standard “Prisoner Of Love”, the other Bennie Benjamin and George Weiss’s “Surrender”). And in 1947 the ever-growing list continued with, among several others, “Two Loves Have I” (reviving a 1931-vintage number in translation by Vincent Scotto, at No.21), “When You Were Sweet Sixteen” (a new version of the 1898 James Thornton classic, at No.2) and, at No.1, the Mack David–Al Hoffman–Jerry Livingston pidgin-Italian lullaby “Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba”.
The 1948-1949 Como hit-list offered No.4 versions of “Because” and “Far Away Places” plus a richer seam which included “Give Me Your Hand” at No.23, “Bali Ha’I” at No.5, “Forever And Ever” (at No.2) No.1s with “ ‘A’ – You’re Adorable” and “Some Enchanted Evening”, a hit-song of the Richard Rodgers’ stage musical South Pacific. Between 1944 and the late 1960s, Perry Como clocked up more than 40 US Top Ten hits, including 20 Golden Discs, an achievement matched only by Bing Crosby; in the UK charts he had 26 Top 40 entries between 1953 and 1974. Dubbed “the world’s most casual singer”, by 1950 Perry was hosting a popular, thrice-weekly CBS variety show which would evolve into The Perry Como Show and between 1952 and 1957 net him various awards. In 1951, he recorded a million-selling revival of “If”, in 1952 his “Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes” proved to be one of the all-time biggest C & W-style hits and in 1954 he had two more Golden Disc hits with “Papa Loves Mambo” and “Wanted.”
In 1958, Perry’s hit album Catch A Falling Star won him a Grammy and in the late ’50s he also had American No.1 singles with “Ko Ko Mo”, “Hot Diggity” and “Round And Round.” In 1960 “Magic Moments” (a US No.4) became a British No.1 hit. In 1970, “It’s Impossible” became his twentieth Golden Disc and inspired an Indian summer of activity marked by a highly successful series of world tours and further hits, notably “For The Good Times”, in 1973. During 1973 he also made a rare TV appearance in the presentation Cole Porter In Paris. A rare visitor to Great Britain (he visited for the first time in 1975, during his sell-out first overseas tour) his Greatest Hits album nonetheless sold a million copies there, whereas in the United States his Christmas TV shows, which had long been a national institution, ran every year until 1992. Although he never officially quit show-business, Perry spent most of his last decade walking, fishing and playing golf. He died peacefully at his home in Jupiter, Florida, on 12th May, 2001, aged 88 years.
Peter Dempsey, 2001
ENCHANTED EVENING (Rodgers–Hammerstein II, from South Pacific)
WONDER WHO’S KISSING HER NOW (Howard–Hough–Adams)
DREAM OF YOU (Goetschius–Osser)
CONFESSIN’ (THAT I LOVE YOU) (Neiburg–Dougherty–Reynolds)
GOT A FEELING I’M FALLING (Waller–Rose–Link)
OF MY DREAMS (Clapp–Kallua)
YOU WERE SWEET SIXTEEN (Thornton)
MUST HAVE BEEN A BEAUTIFUL BABY (Warren–Mercer)
YOU WERE THE ONLY GIRL IN THE WORLD (Ayer–Grey)
LOVES HAVE I (Scotto–Murray–Trivers. French words Koger–Varna)
ME YOUR HAND (Stewart)
PLEASE BELIEVE ME (Walker–Merrill)
HA’I (Rogers–Hammerstein II, from South Pacific)
CHI-BABA, CHI-BABA (David–Hoffman–Livingston)
tracks recorded in New York
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