Pierino Ronald Como was a show business fixture for over a half a century, beginning his career as a vocalist in the big band era (with Ted Weems’ Orchestra) before striking out on his own as a solo artist. You know him better as Perry Como, of course; in 1945, Como scored his first #1 pop hit in Till the End of Time…and the title of that gold record lends itself to an upcoming TV special, Perry Como Classics: ‘Till the End of Time…which will air as one of PBS’ popular My Music fundraising specials beginning the weekend of June 2.
Perry Como ranked only behind the Old Groaner (Bing Crosby) in terms of popularity in the male crooner sweepstakes (but ahead of such biggies as Francis Albert Sinatra and Tony Bennett)…and even that statistic could be challenged because “Mr. C” had so many gold records (among them Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes and Catch a Falling Star) he didn’t bother to have some of them certified. Perry also suppressed figures regarding the number of records he was estimated to have sold, so it’s entirely possible he sold many more millions than the official tally.
Como established himself as a radio star with the popular The Chesterfield Supper Club, which premiered as a five-day-a-week quarter hour over NBC on December 11, 1944; Como worked Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays with Jo Stafford handling the hosting duties on the remaining days of the week. (It should be noted that Supper Club was not Mr. C’s first radio gig—during his stint with the Ted Weems Orchestra, Perry regularly appeared on Beat the Band…and can even be heard on surviving broadcasts of Fibber McGee & Molly [1936-38]!) Como went with Supper Club when the series transitioned to television in December of 1948, and less than a year later the series expanded to a weekly half-hour, competing with Ed Sullivan’s The Toast of the Town on Sunday nights. In 1950, the singer would be welcomed into the Tiffany network’s fold with The Perry Como Chesterfield Show, a quarter-hour (airing on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays) that successfully ran until 1955.
Perry moved back to NBC (after signing a 12-year “unbreakable” contract) in the fall with his biggest boob tube success, The Perry Como Show—which premiered on September 17, 1955. Como’s variety series became a Saturday night institution, and although the singer’s detractors derisively nicknamed him “Perry Coma” and “The Sleeping Prince” (due to his relaxed, informal style) it was a huge hit with TV audiences, and it netted him five Emmys including an award for Best Performance by an Actor (Continuing Character) in a Musical or Variety Series in 1959. (Perry was also the recipient of a Peabody Award in 1956, which he shared with his good friend Jackie “The Great One” Gleason.) Como moved to Wednesday nights in 1959 to become the host of The Kraft Music Hall, and after a four-year-run continued in the capacity from 1963 to 1967 with monthly specials that alternated with series like The Kraft Suspense Theatre and The Andy Williams Show. Perry would continue to be a TV fixture with seasonal specials (he was very popular at Christmas time), with his last one (Irish Christmas) airing in 1994.
Perry Como Classics: ‘Till the End of Time will draw upon long-lost (and newly restored) telecasts from his TV series and specials, featuring performances of Como smashes as Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity), Round & Round, Magic Moments, It’s Impossible, and so many more. Hosted by Peter Marshall and Nick Clooney, ‘Till the End of the Time will showcase Mr. C singing duets with the likes of Der Bingle, Lena Horne, Dean Martin, and the McGuire Sisters, punctuated with modern-day remembrances from celebs such as Carol Burnett, Regis Philbin, Jay Leno, and Debby Boone. Sing to me, Mr. C! Enjoy the cardigan sweaters! (Como didn’t–they were alpaca and “itched like hell.”) Classic TV fans won’t want to miss this blast from the past!