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Accordionist & Actor Dick Contino Dies

FRESNO, CA (CelebrityAccess) — Dick Contino, a singer and accordionist with numerous roles on both the small and big screen had died. He was 87.

According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, Contino died at his hometown of Fresno, California. A cause of death for Contino was not disclosed.

Contino, a native of Fresno, first made a name for himself in the entertainment industry at the age of 20 when he won first place in the Horace Heidt/Philip Morris talent contest, playing what would become his signature piece, "Lady of Spain." The contest, which was broadcast on national radio, presaged wins for Contino in similar competitions around the U.S.

Contino went on to tour with the Horace Heidt Orchestra and started a recording career, striking hits with "Yours" (1954) which hit #27 on the U.S. pop and then followed it up with "Pledge My Love" (1957) which peaked at #42 on the pop chart.

Contino was also a regular on late night television, and by some accounts, appeared on the Ed Sullivan show more than 40 times.

However, during the Korean War, Contino was drafted, but fled from an induction center, claiming mental distress, and spent several months in jail for draft evasion before serving. Ultimately, he was honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant and received a Presidential Pardon, but the damage had been done and his career as a musician never fully recovered.

After the war, Contino appeared in several movies, including the low budget rock 'n' roll film Daddy-O, where he played a musician and driver. Other roles for Contino included The Beat Generation (1959), Girls Town (1959) and The Big Night (1960).

Contino continued to tour and perform around the U.S. and later started his own band, recording with RCA Victor.

Contino was married to sexy Hollywood actress Leigh Snowden, who died in 1982.

Survivors include his son, Peter, and daughters Diedre and Mary, the Journal Review reported. – Staff Writers