Nick Perito

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Nick Perito
Nick Perito
Nick Perito as the conductor for Perry Como's last performance, 1994.
Background information
Birth nameNicholas Perito
Born(1924-04-07)April 7, 1924
Denver, Colorado
DiedAugust 4, 2005(2005-08-04) (aged 81)
Hollywood, California
Years active1940s–2004
Associated actsPerry Como
Ferrante and Teicher

Nicholas Perito (April 7, 1924 – August 4, 2005)[1][2] was an American Hollywood composer and arranger and, for 40 years, the closest collaborator of singer Perry Como.[3][4]


Early years[edit]

Born in Denver, Perito's start in music was at an early age, when he received an accordion as a gift from his parents. Both his uncle and brother encouraged his learning by gifts of sheet music; as he mastered one song, he would then be given a new one as an incentive.[5] Perito started performing at parties at a young age and received a scholarship to the Lamont School of Music, studying at the University of Denver.[1][5][6]

Being drafted in 1943 took him to New York, where he served as an Army medic in World War II; he also played piano and did musical arrangements for the Army band.[1][6] The band musicians were given passes on weekends if there were no military engagements for them and were allowed to pick up jobs during this time.[5][6] Perito remained in New York after World War II, entering the Juilliard School of Music and graduating from the college in 1949.[1][5][6]


Perito went home to Denver to marry his high school sweetheart, Judy Stone, and worked at Denver's KOA with his own weekday radio program in 1946.[7] The couple then settled in New York, where he worked as a songwriter,[3] arranger, and accordion/piano session musician.[5][8][9] Perito also had his own band that had a permanent spot at Jack Dempsey's Broadway Restaurant, owned by the boxer.[10] His first association with Perry Como came through Como's arranger, Ray Charles, in the early 1950s. Como had recorded a novelty song, "Hoop-De-Doo", and Perito was hired to accompany him on accordion for television performances of the song.[5] He became the musical director of United Artists Records in 1961.[11]

In 1963, Como's musical conductor, Mitchell Ayres, wanted to hire some new arrangers for Como's television show; Ray Charles recommended Perito to Ayres. When Ayres left to take a job as the conductor of The Hollywood Palace, Perito became the singer's music director and conductor.[5] Como credited Perito with the idea of making his 1987 album, Today.[12] Perito worked with Como through his last performance: his Irish Christmas special in 1994.[13][14] When Mitchell Ayres was killed in a traffic accident in 1969, former Como show producer Nick Vanoff, who was now with The Hollywood Palace, suggested Perito as Ayres' replacement.[1][15][16]

Perito's other credits include the Kennedy Center Honors, where he again worked with Vanoff.[1] He was also the musical director for the American Film Institute awards, as well as The Don Knotts Variety Show, Andy Williams and Bing Crosby television specials.[1][6] Perito wrote the music for the 1968 film, Don't Just Stand There! with Robert Wagner and Mary Tyler Moore.[6][17] In the same year, Perito played the accordion on the only solo vocal album of his friend and associate, Ray Charles, Memories of a Middle-Aged Movie Fan.[18] Perito was also an influential arranger of background music for Muzak in the late 1960s and early 70s.[19][20]

He became the musical director for Bob Hope in 1993, and worked with Hope's wife, Dolores, when she decided to pick up her singing career after 60 years.[1][21][22] Perito played accordion for actor Paul Sorvino's PBS musical special in 1996.[23] Perito, along with musicians Dick Grove and Allyn Ferguson, was a founder and partner in the Grove School of Music in Van Nuys, California. The school was accredited in 1979 but could no longer afford to keep its doors open by 1991.[24][25]


His work earned Perito a dozen Emmy nominations.[1][26] a year before his death of pulmonary fibrosis in Hollywood.[1][3][6]


As composer
As conductor, arranger, director or producer


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Nick Perito Obituary". Variety. 16 August 2005. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  2. ^ "Composer Nick Perito dead at 81". United Press International. 3 August 2005. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d Ankeny, Jason. Nick Perito at AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-03-30.
  4. ^ "The Como Team". Perry Como Appreciation Society. Archived from the original on March 8, 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Bruno, Otto. "Nick Perito Interview". Archived from the original on 23 April 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Nick Perito, 81; Composer and Arranger Worked With Perry Como". Los Angeles Times. 15 August 2005. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  7. ^ Too Short For a Head. Billboard. 10 August 1946. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  8. ^ Macfarlane, Malcolm; Crossland, Ken (2009). Perry Como: A Biography and Complete Career Record. McFarland. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-7864-3701-6.
  9. ^ Mills, Earl, ed. (1997). Dorothy Dandridge: An Intimate Biography. Holloway House. p. 190. ISBN 0-87067-899-X. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  10. ^ Music--As Written. Billboard. 5 June 1948. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  11. ^ E. Mathews to UA A.&R. Post. Billboard. 16 October 1961. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  12. ^ Campbell, Mary (12 October 1987). "In fourth quarter, the game's still fun". Spokane Chronicle. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  13. ^ "Irish Christmas". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
  14. ^ Perry Como, Easy-Listening Pioneer, Passes On. Billboard. 26 May 2001. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  15. ^ Popa, Christopher. "Mitchell Ayres-Scratchin' the Surface". Big Band Library. Retrieved 28 June 2010.
  16. ^ "Nick Vanoff". IMDB. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  17. ^ "Don't Just Stand There". IMDB. 1968. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  18. ^ "Memories of a Middle-Aged Movie Fan". Atco Records. 1968. Retrieved 8 January 2011.
  19. ^ Lanza, Joseph (2004). Elevator music: a surreal history of Muzak, easy-listening, and other moodsong. University of Michigan Press. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-472-08942-0.
  20. ^ Inside Track. Billboard. 10 November 1973. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  21. ^ Thomas, Bob (8 June 1997). "Dolores Hope renews singing career with 3rd album". Lawrence Journal-World. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  22. ^ DiCostanzo, Frank (15 November 1997). Drive Shifts To High Gear To Reach Military, Over-50 Crowd With Dolores Hope Album. Billboard. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  23. ^ Sheffield, Skip (26 July 1996). "Actor Paul Sorvino Loves to Sing". The News. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  24. ^ Stewart, Zan (15 March 1991). "Music School Turns Ear Toward Teamwork, Professionalism". LA Times. Retrieved 2 June 2011. "The students at the school, where Grove, composer Allyn Ferguson and conductor Nick Perito are the operating owner-partners, are exposed to all styles of popular music."
  25. ^ Arkush, Michael (6 August 1991). "The Grove School May Close : Van Nuys: The music institute needs to raise at least $300,000. An agreement to sell it to a Florida academy falls through". LA Times. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  26. ^ Perito, Nick, ed. (2004). "I Just Happened To Be There: Making Music With The Stars". Xlibris Corporation. p. 336. ISBN 1-4134-5373-2. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)[self-published source]
  27. ^ Nick Perito: Songs at AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-03-30.
  28. ^ See Nick Perito: Credits at AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-03-30.

External links[edit]