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 age seven. When his family relocated to California, he featured on the Horace Heidt radio show, performing a Benny Goodman clarinet solo. A child actor, he worked in motion pictures in such movies as 1949's The Red Pony and in 1953's The Glenn Miller Story featuring James Stewart. He was also a sought after session musician, working with Elkie Brooks, as a member of the band the Wrecking Crew for Phil Spector, and recording with Maynard Ferguson (Live At The Peacock, 1956). By means of a Bobby Darin recording session, Tempo made connections with Atlantic Records and contracted with its Atco Records subsidiary.
However, Nino Tempo is known best for his 1963 duet "Deep Purple" on Atco with his sister Carol (singing under the stage name April Stevens) that scored No.1 on the Hot 100. The song won the 1964 Grammy Award for Best Rock And Roll Recording, selling more than one million copies and earning a gold disc.
During late 1973, a little less than 10 years after "Deep Purple" had topped the Hot 100, Tempo scored #53 on his last Hot 100 hit with the (mostly) instrumental "Sister James" as Nino Tempo And 5th Ave. Sax, an obvious play on Saks Fifth Avenue. Recorded at A&M Records studio with the backing, writing, producing, and arranging of Jeff Barry, "Sister James" became one of the first instrumental disco records to score the national charts. "Sister James" is often classified as an example of Northern Soul.
Tempo continues to perform to the present.
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With Maynard Ferguson
- Dimensions (EmArcy, 1955)
With the Modern Jazz Quartet
- MJQ & Friends: A 40th Anniversary Celebration (Atlantic, 1994)