Nick Perito, a conductor, composer and arranger whose career spanned more than 50 years, died of pulmonary fibrosis Aug. 3 at the Motion Picture Country Home in Calabasas, Calif. He was 81.
Known primarily as Perry Como’s arranger and musical director, he also worked with Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Dorothy Dandridge, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, Linda Ronstadt, Diana Ross, Patti LuPone, Regis Philbin, Kathryn Crosby and Dolores and Bob Hope.
Denver native helped pay the bills as a child by playing accordion at local parties and restaurants. In high school he got a job as an accordion player on a local radio show and then studied piano at Denver U.’s Lamont School of Music. During WWII, he was transferred to Staten Island, where he worked as pianist and arranger for the Army Band.
Following the war he attended Juilliard School of Music.
After touring the country as conductor-accompanist to Dandridge, he settled in New York and became part of the “round table” of Gotham’s musical arrangers, including Nelson Riddle, Billy May and Don Costa.
His decades-long association with Como began in 1963 as arranger for “The Perry Como Show.” The following year he became Como’s conductor for studio recordings, television specials and world tours.
In addition to Como, he served as musical director for “The Hollywood Palace,” “The Don Knotts Variety Show,” “American Film Institute Awards” and, from 1979-93, “The Kennedy Center Honors.” Over the years he garnered 12 Emmy nominations for his work.
In 1993 he became musical director for Bob Hope and arranger-conductor for Dolores Hope, with whom he recorded six albums.
He is survived by his wife, Judy; a daughter; and two sons.