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Nick Perito, 81; Composer and Arranger Worked With Perry Como

August 15, 2005|From a Times Staff Writer

Nick Perito, a composer and arranger who worked with Perry Como and was nominated for Emmys for telecasts of the Kennedy Center Honors, has died. He was 81.

Perito died of pulmonary fibrosis Aug. 3 at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Country House in Woodland Hills.

He joined Como in 1963 as the singer's long-running "The Perry Como Show" was ending, and stayed on as his music director and conductor for frequent television specials, tours and recording sessions.

Perito also handled the music for television specials for Andy Williams, Bing Crosby and Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. He played piano in recording sessions for Steve & Eydie and for Julius La Rosa, among others. For the big screen, Perito scored the 1968 comedy "Don't Just Stand There," starring Robert Wagner and Mary Tyler Moore.

Perito was nominated for a dozen Emmys, primarily for Como specials and televised presentations of the Kennedy Center Honors in the 1980s and early '90s.

Born in Denver, the multifaceted musician began playing the accordion at parties and then majored in piano at the University of Denver.

During World War II, he moved to New York, serving as an Army medic but also arranging music and playing piano with the Army Band. The pianist entertained at a pizza parlor on weekends.

After the war, Perito studied piano, conducting and orchestration at the Juilliard School. He wrote the music for such songs as "Stay with Me" and "We Are Love."

In 2004, he published a memoir, "I Just Happened to Be There: Making Music with the Stars," which he sold through a friend's Valente's Italian Restaurant in Wheat Ridge, Colo.

Perito is survived by his wife of 56 years, Judy; a daughter, Jennie of New York City; and two sons, Danny of Los Angeles and Terry of New York City.

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