Pierino Ronald “Perry” Como was born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. He was the seventh of ten children and the first American-born child of Pietro Como and Lucia Travaglini, who both immigrated 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 little Pierino was able to toddle, he would head to the instrument, pump the bellows, and play music he had heard by ear. 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 Como 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. Despite his musical ability, Como’s primary ambition was to become the best barber in Canonsburg. Practicing on his father, young Como mastered the skills well enough to have his own shop at age 14. Read More