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Nick Perito, 81, composer worked with Perry Como

LOS ANGELES -- Nick Perito, an Emmy-nominated Hollywood composer and arranger who worked for more than three decades with Perry Como, has died. He was 81.

Mr. Perito died of pulmonary fibrosis at the Motion Picture Country Home on Aug. 3, about two months after contracting the lung disease, his son Terry Perito said Friday.

Nick Perito began working as an arranger on Como's television show in 1963. The next year, he became a conductor for the velvet-voiced crooner's shows, studio recordings and tours.

''Perry treated him as kind of his kid brother," Mr. Perito's son Dan said. ''It was a familial relationship."

Born in Denver to parents who emigrated from Italy, Mr. Perito got his start playing accordion at parties and restaurants.

He studied piano at a university in Denver before moving to New York during World War II, where he worked as a pianist and arranger for the Army Band. After the war, he graduated from Julliard School of Music and began working with Dorothy Dandridge.

''He was kind of a triple threat," Dan Perito said. ''He could play the piano, he could arrange, and conduct. You couldn't sneak anything by him musically, because he was well-versed on all fronts."

Terry Perito said his father worked at least peripherally with musicians ranging from Frank Sinatra to Diana Ross and in his later years was close to Bob Hope.

Mr. Perito earned 12 nods from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, all but one for his musical direction arrangements of Como TV Christmas specials in the 1980s and of Kennedy Center Honors in the 1980s and 1990s. He wrote a memoir last year titled ''I Just Happened To Be There: Making Music With The Stars."

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