Perry Como – It’s Impossible
Perry Como was a True Gentleman
Perry Como was born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. He was the seventh of ten children and the first American-born child of Pietro Como and Lucia Travaglini, who both emigrated to the US in 1910 from the Abruzzese town of Palena, Italy. He did not begin speaking English until he entered school, since the Comos spoke Italian at home. The family had a second-hand organ his father had bought for $3; as soon as Como was able to toddle, he would head to the instrument, pump the bellows, and play music he had heard by ear. Pietro, a mill hand and an amateur baritone, had all his children attend music lessons even if he could barely afford them.
In a rare 1957 interview, Como’s mother, Lucia, described how her young son also took on other jobs to pay for more music lessons; Como learned to play many different instruments, but never had a voice lesson. He showed more musical talent in his teenage years as a trombone player in the town’s brass band, playing guitar, singing at weddings, and as an organist at church. Perry Como was a member of the Canonsburg Italian Band along with the father of singer Bobby Vinton, bandleader Stan Vinton, who was often a customer at his barber shop.
Young Perry started helping his family at age 10, working before and after school in Steve Fragapane’s barber shop for 50¢ a week. By age 13, he had graduated to having his own chair in the Fragapane barber shop, although he stood on a box to tend to his customers. It was also around this time that young Como lost his week’s wages in a dice game. Filled with shame, he locked himself in his room and did not come out until hunger got the better of him. He managed to tell his father what had happened to the money his family depended on. His father told him he was entitled to make a mistake and that he hoped his son would never do anything worse than this. When Perry was 14, his father became unable to work because of a severe heart condition. Como and his brothers became the support of the household.