Peter Nero (born Bernard Nierow, May 22, 1934, Brooklyn) is a pianist and New York native who started with jazz then moved up to symphony until the early '60s, when RCA Victor signed him and successfully promoted him into a pop music interpreter. He won the 1961 Grammy for Best New Artist. His lush orchestrated albums continued through the early '70s, when he returned to a harder jazz format, recording with a trio.
Nierow began playing piano as child, learning the instrument quite rapidly; by the age of 11, he was playing Haydn concertos. However, he was restless and quickly grew tired of classical music, becoming infatuated with jazz as a teenager. In fact, after Nero graduated from Brooklyn College in 1956, he became a jazz pianist. However, instead of playing straight jazz, he created a swinging hybrid of jazz and classical music.
Nierow didn't have much success as a performer, which meant he had to take a gig as a saloon pianist in a New York club called the Hickory House. Unsatisfied with the compromises he was making at the club, he headed out to Las Vegas, where he didn't find much success. He returned to New York, taking a lesser job at the Hickory House. For several years, he played New York's club circuit and he recorded his first album under the name of Bernie Nerow in July 1957 under the Mode label which highlighted his technical virtuosity in the jazz genre. He then came to the attention of Stan Greeson, an executive at RCA Records.
His first major national TV success came when he was chosen to perform Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue on Paul Whiteman's TV Special. He subsequently appeared on many top variety and talk shows including 11 guest appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, and numerous appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Convinced that Nierow had star potential, Greeson signed the pianist and had him change his name to Peter Nero; he also persuaded Nero to add pop songs like "Over the Rainbow" to his repertoire. His first RCA LP, "Piano Forte," was an immediate success and Nero began touring as a solo artist. That same year, he won the Grammy for Best New Artist.
Nero's popularity continued to rise throughout the early '60s; his jazzy hybrid of pop, classical, swing, and bop became one of the most popular mainstream sounds of the era. Since then, he has received another Grammy, garnered ten additional nominations and released 68 albums. Nero's early association with RCA Victor produced 23 albums in eight years."Hail the Conquering Nero" topping out at #5 on the Billboard LP chart. His subsequent move to Columbia Records resulted in a million-selling single and album – Summer of '42.
Eventually, he became the musical director of the Philadelphia Pops Orchestra, where he frequently performed classical arrangements of pop songs. Nero was founding conductor and led the Philly Pops for 35 years until 2013.
Theatrical producer Moe Septee founded the Philly POPS in 1979 as part of an effort to rekindle Philadelphia’s struggling theater community. Grammy Award-winning pianist Peter Nero's recordings include albums with symphony orchestras: On My Own, Classical Connections and My Way. He recorded Peter Nero and Friends where he collaborated with Mel Torme, Maureen McGovern and Doc Severinsen and others. Nero's latest albums, Love Songs for a Rainy Day and More in Love, focus on romantic themes. By popular demand, four of his earlier recordings have been reissued. He also appeared on Rod Stewart's album As Time Goes By: The Great American Songbook, Volume II.
Nero has worked with a long list of notable musicians including Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Diane Schuur, Johnny Mathis, Roger Kellaway and Elton John.
Nero's long list of honours, including six honorary doctorates, the most recent from Drexel University in 2004, and the prestigious International Society of Performing Arts Presenters Award for Excellence in the Arts. In 2009 Nero was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Federation of Musicians.He has continued to appear on the concert platform as a pianist and conductor, often with top US symphony orchestras, still blending the classical with the popular.
(Info edited from Wikipedia & Cub Koda, Rovi)