Nino Tempo was born in Niagara Falls, New York. A musical prodigy, he learned to play the clarinet and the tenor saxophone as a child. He was a talent show winner at four years of age and appeared on television with Benny Goodman at seven. When his family moved to California, he appeared on the Horace Heidt radio show, performing a Benny Goodman clarinet solo. A child actor, he worked in motion pictures in such films as 1949's The Red Pony and in 1953's The Glenn Miller Story starring James Stewart. He was also a sought after session musician, working with Elkie Brooks, as a member of The Wrecking Crew for Phil Spector, and recording with Maynard Ferguson (Live At The Peacock-1956). Through a Bobby Darin recording session, Tempo made connections with Atlantic Records and signed with its Atco Records subsidiary.
However, Nino Tempo is best known for his 1963 duet "Deep Purple" on Atco with his sister Carol (singing under the stage name April Stevens) that went to No.1 on the Billboard charts. The song won the 1964 Grammy Award for Best Rock and Roll Recording. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc.
In late 1973, a little less than 10 years after "Deep Purple" topped the Hot 100, Tempo reached #53 in his last appearance on the Hot 100 with the (mostly) instrumental "Sister James" as Nino Tempo And 5th Ave. Sax, an obvious play on Saks Fifth Avenue. Recorded at A&M with the backing, writing, producing, and arranging of Jeff Barry, "Sister James" became one of the first instrumental disco records to reach the national charts. "Sister James" is often classified as an example of Northern Soul.
Tempo continues to perform to this day.
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With Maynard Ferguson
- Dimensions (EmArcy, 1955)
With the Modern Jazz Quartet
- MJQ & Friends: A 40th Anniversary Celebration (Atlantic, 1994)
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