Hollywood composer and arranger Nick Perito remains best known for his four-decade tenure as music director and conductor for crooner Perry Como. Perito was born April 7, 1924, in Denver, and his first instrument was the accordion, but he soon moved to piano, later majoring in music at the University of Denver. During World War II, he served as an Army medic, additionally performing with military bands. After the war, Perito studied at the Juilliard School of Music, graduating in 1949. He spent the 1950s as a New York City songwriter, penning hits such as "Stay with Me" and "We Are Love," before joining Como in 1963, just months prior to the end of the singer's long-running television show.
Perito nevertheless remained Como's closest collaborator for 40 years, a span that included countless TV specials, recordings, and tours -- he also served as music director for broadcasts headlined by Andy Williams and the husband/wife duo of Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme, and over the course of his career earned a dozen Emmy nominations, earning the most acclaim for his work with the Kennedy Center Honors broadcasts. In 2004, Perito published his memoir, I Just Happened to Be There: Making Music with the Stars. He died of pulmonary fibrosis in Hollywood on August 3, 2005. ~ Jason Ankeny