Perry Como's smooth baritone voice and likable manner made him an American pop music icon at the middle of the last century.
In a career lasting more than six decades, Como became synonymous with an easy-listening, family-oriented sound that characterized pop music in the 1940s, '50s and '60s. During the 1940s, some 4 million Como records were pressed during a single week. Ten years later, 11 of his singles had sold well over 1 million copies each. Over his long career he had 27 gold records and sold more than 100 million records.
His break as a singer came in 1937 when he joined the big band led by trombonist Ted Weems and was featured on the band's "Beat the Band" radio program. CBS radio offered him a weekly show at $100 a week; RCA signed him to a substantial contract soon after that. Over the next 14 years, Como recorded 42 Top 10 hits, a mark surpassed only by Bing Crosby.
During the 1940s, Como also appeared in a trio of films for Twentieth Century Fox, all of which costarred Carmen Miranda, who generally proved more memorable in these efforts.
But it was on the small screen that Como found real success. He made his debut in 1948 on NBC's "The Chesterfield Supper Club." Two years later he switched to CBS for "The Perry Como Show," which ran for five years. His most popular stint, however, was back on NBC starting in 1955 with the show featuring his theme, "Sing Along With Me." The show is still regarded as one of the best of its kind in television history.
He turned the cardigan sweater into a fashion statement while hosting a popular television variety show on NBC from 1955 to 1963, winning Emmy Awards in 1956 and 1957 for most outstanding television personality. His television shows also won Peabody and Golden Mike awards.
In 1963, Como, known to his legions of fans as "Mr. C," gave up regular television work in favor of doing occasional specials. Rock 'n' roll had crowded out the crooners who once charmed hordes of screaming bobby-soxers.