Monday, August 1, 2016

Perry Como’s Lorain Connection

Perry Como circa 1956
It’s long been a local legend that before he was famous, singer Perry Como cut hair in a barbershop in South Lorain.

Is there any truth to this story?

Find out in this article (below), which ran in the Lorain Journal on July 21, 1947. You might be surprised to find out that Lorain was the scene of a very important milestone in his career.

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Crooner Recalls Debut on Stage in Lorain
Never Cut Hair Here But Did Make His First Stage
Appearance in City, Singer Says

By DAVID SAMUELS

Perry Como never worked in a barber shop in Lorain – contrary to some reports in this area.

But he made his first stage appearance as a crooner at the Palace.

And, he roomed with Harry Broglia, former president of Lorain city council, during the early days of his singing career in this city.

Those facts came straight from Como himself when Broglia and this reporter visited him in his dressing room in Cleveland where he is setting a new box office record for theatre appearances.

The husky, barrel-chested singer grinned when asked about his alleged barbering practice in Lorain. He said:

“The past two days at least a dozen people told me I cut their hair when I worked in a barber shop in South Lorain. I can’t figure that out. I barbered eight years in my home town (Canonsburg, Pa.) but I didn’t cut hair anywhere else.”

“It was in Lorain, tho, that I made my first appearance before a large audience. Harry (Broglia) was head usher at the Palace and he got me a job singing between features. I did it for one day – for experience and without pay.”

Remembered by Waitress
"The other day, when I was eating at a Euclid-av restaurant, a waitress walked over to me and said she remembered when I sang at the Palace in Lorain. And I thought everyone had forgotten about it but myself.”

Broglia said he and Como were playmates when their families lived across the street from each other in Canonsburg. He came to Lorain in the late 1920’s to get a job and lived with his uncle, the late Andrea Broglia, on E. 28th-st.

“Perry was a good singer ever since he was a kid,” said Broglia. “I remember when he used to work at Felix Tardio’s barber shop, and kept his guitar on the wall. When business was slack, he’d take down the guitar and sing. Felix always said he put the customers in a better mood for the extras.”

Como nodded: “I started barbering when I was 10, lathering the customers. I had my own shop when I was 15.”

Visits Lorain
After coming to Lorain, Broglia wrote to Como urging him to visit here because there were many opportunities for good singers. Finally, Como took the step which probably changed the course of this life; he bought a round-trip train ticket to Cleveland.

His first visit lasted two weeks. He lived with Broglia and his uncle. The first “job” turned out to be the one-day stand at the Palace. Como went over well with the audience, Broglia said, especially when he sang, “All of Me.”

Then, Broglia took him to Cleveland and got an audition with WTAM, but nothing ever came of it. They also stopped at the Palace for a tryout. The manager told them to come back the following week, he was busy handling arrangements for the personal appearance of the late Jean Harlow.

Como replied he could not wait that long and returned to Canonsburg. His “break” came at last when Freddie Carlone, Cleveland bandleader, consented to give Como an audition – after Broglia harangued him for 25 minutes.

Hired at $25 Weekly
Back to Lorain rushed Como, borrowing the money for train fare. Carlone was rehearsing in Cleveland; the ex-barber sang a few selections and was hired as vocalist for $25 a week.

He spent three years with Carlone. The next step up the ladder was taken one night in 1936 when the band was playing at a night club, outside Warren, O.

Ted Weems, who was in Youngstown, decided to visit the club to hear the crooner. He persuaded Como to sigh with his organization.

Como sang with Weems until the war started. The band broke up after most of the musicians joined the armed forces and Comp entered radio broadcasting to gain his greatest fame.

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And what was it like to hear Perry Como sing at the time of the above 1947 Lorain Journal article? Here he is, singing Chi-Baba Chi-Baba (a Number One Hit) in a recording from that same year.

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