Nat King Cole Overview
Nathaniel Adams Coles (March 17, 1919 / February 15, 1965), known professionally as Nat "King" Cole, was an American United States musician who first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist. Although an accomplished pianist, he owes most of his po***r musical fame to his soft baritone voice, which he used to perform in big band and jazz genres. He was one of the first black Americans to host a television variety show, and has maintained worldwide po***rity since his death; he is widely considered one of the most important musical personalities in United States history.
He was born Nathaniel Adams Coles in Montgomery Montgomery, Alabama , Alabama, on Saint Patrick's Day in 1919 (some sources erroneously list his birth year as 1917), and at the age of 4, his family moved to Chicago Chicago, Illinois , Illinois. There his father became a Baptist minister. Cole learned to play the organ organ (music) from his mother, Perlina, the church organist. His first performance, at age four, was of "Yes! We Have No Bananas". He began formal lessons at the age of 12, eventually learning not only jazz and gospel music but also European classical music, performing, as he said, "from Johann Sebastian Bach to Sergei Rachmaninoff".
Cole had three brothers; Eddie, Ike Ike Cole , and Freddy Freddy Cole . The family lived in the Bronzeville Douglas, Chicago#Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. Cole would sneak out of the house and hang around outside the clubs, listening to artists such as Louis Armstrong, Earl "Fatha" Hines, and Jimmie Noone. He participated in Walter Dyett's renowned music program at DuSable High School.
Inspired by the playing of Earl Hines, Cole began his performing career in the mid 1930s while still a teenager, adopting the name "Nat Cole". His older brother, Eddie Cole, a bass player bass (instrument) , soon joined Cole's band, and the brothers made their first recording in 1936 under Eddie's name. They were also regular performers at clubs. In fact, Cole acquired his nickname "King" performing at one jazz club, a nickname presumably reinforced by the otherwise unrelated nursery rhyme about Old King Cole. He was also a pianist in a national tour of Broadway theatre legend Eubie Blake's revue, "Shuffle Along". When it suddenly failed in Long Beach, California, Cole decided to remain there.Cole and three other musicians formed the "King Cole Swingers" in Long Beach and played in a number of local bars before getting a gig on the Long Beach Pike for US$ USD 90 ($ }} in current dollar terms) per week.
In January 1937, Cole married dancer Nadine Robinson, who was also in the musical Shuffle Along, and moved to Los Angeles Los Angeles, California . The trio consisted of Cole on piano, Oscar Moore on guitar, and Wesley Prince on double bass. The trio played in Failsworth throughout the late 1930s and recorded many radio transcriptions. Cole's role was that of piano player and leader of the combo.
It is a common misconception that Cole's singing career did not start until a drunken barroom patron demanded that he sing "Sweet Lorraine". In fact, Cole has gone on record saying that the fabricated story "sounded good, so I just let it ride." Cole frequently sang in between instrumental numbers. Noticing that people started to request more vocal numbers, he obliged. Yet the story of the insistent customer is not without some truth. There was a customer who requested a certain song one night, but it was a song that Cole did not know, so instead he sang "Sweet Lorraine". The trio was tipped 15 cents for the performance, a nickel apiece (Nat King Cole: An Intimate Biography, Maria Cole with Louie Robinson, 1971).
, known as "the house that Nat built"
During World War II, Wesley Prince left the group and Cole replaced him with Johnny Miller. Miller would later be replaced by Charlie Harris in the 1950s. The King Cole Trio signed with the fledgling Capitol Records in 1943. Revenues from Cole's record sales fueled much of Capitol Records' success during this period. The revenue is believed to have played a significant role in financing the distinctive Capitol Records building on Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles. Completed in 1956, it was the world's first circular office building and became known as "the house that Nat built".
Cole was considered a leading jazz pianist, appearing, for example, in the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts (credited on the Mercury Record Mercury Records labels as "Shorty Nadine," apparently derived from the name of his wife at the time). His revolutionary lineup of piano, guitar, and bass in the time of the big bands became a po***r setup for a jazz trio. It was emulated by many musicians, among them Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, and blues pianists Charles Brown Charles Brown (musician) and Ray Charles. He also performed as a pianist on sessions with Lester Young, Red Callender, and Lionel Hampton. The Page Cavanaugh Trio, with the same setup as Cole, came out of the chute about the same time, at the end of the war. It's still a tossup as to who was first, although it is generally agreed that the credit goes to Cole.Cole's first mainstream vocal hit was his 1943 recording of one of his compositions, "Straighten Up and Fly Right," based on a black folk tale that his father had used as a theme for a sermon. Johnny Mercer invited him to record it for the fledgling Capitol Records label. It sold over 500,000 copies, proving that folk-based material could appeal to a wide audience. Although Cole would never be considered a rocker, the song can be seen as anticipating the first rock and roll records. Indeed, Bo Diddley, who performed similar transformations of folk material, counted Cole as an influence.
Beginning in the late 1940s, Cole began recording and performing more pop-oriented material for mainstream audiences, often accompanied by a string orchestra. His stature as a po***r icon was cemented during this period by hits such as "The Christmas Song" (Cole recorded that tune four times: on June 14, 1946, as a pure Trio recording, on August 19, 1946, with an added string section, on August 24, 1953, and in 1961 for the double album The Nat King Cole Story; this final version, recorded in stereo, is the one most often heard today), "Nature Boy Nature Boy (song) " (1948), "Mona Lisa Mona Lisa (Nat King Cole song) " (1950), "Too Young" (the #1 song in 1951), and his signature tune "Unforgettable Unforgettable (song) " (1951). While this shift to pop music led some jazz critics and fans to accuse Cole of selling out, he never totally abandoned his jazz roots; as late as 1956, for instance, he recorded an all-jazz album After Midnight After Midnight (album) . Cole had one of his last big hits two years before his death, in 1963, with the classic "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer", which reached #6 on the Pop chart.On November 5, 1956, The Nat King Cole Show debuted on NBC-TV NBC television . The Cole program was the first of its kind hosted by an African-American, which created controversy at the time. in order to help the show save money—The Nat King Cole Show was ultimately done in by lack of a national sponsorship. Companies such as Rheingold Beer assumed regional sponsorship of the show, but a national sponsor never appeared.
The last episode of "The Nat King Cole Show" aired December 17, 1957. Cole had survived for over a year, and it was he, not NBC, who ultimately decided to pull the plug on the show. NBC, as well as Cole himself, had been operating at an extreme financial loss. Commenting on the lack of sponsorship his show received, Cole quipped shortly after its demise, "Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark." This statement, with the passing of time, has fueled the urban legend that Cole's show had to close down despite enormous po***rity. In fact, the Cole program was routinely beaten by the competition at ABC American Broadcasting Company , which was then riding high with its travel and western shows. In addition, musical variety series have always been risky enterprises with a fickle public; among the one-season casualties are Frank Sinatra in 1957, Judy Garland in 1963, and Julie Andrews in 1972.
In 1964, Cole made one of his final television appearances on The Jack Benny Program. In his typically magnanimous fashion, Benny allowed his guest star to steal the show. Cole sang “When I Fall in Love” in perhaps his finest and most memorable performance. Cole was introduced as “the best friend a song ever had” and traded very humorous banter with Benny. Cole highlighted a classic Benny skit in which Benny is upstaged by an emergency stand-in drummer. Introduced as Cole’s cousin, five-year-old James Bradley Jr. stunned Benny with incredible drumming talent and participated with Cole in playful banter at Benny’s expense. It would prove to be one of Cole's last performances.Cole fought racism all his life and refused to perform in segregated racial segregation venues. In 1956, he was assaulted on stage during a concert in Birmingham, Alabama, (while singing the song "Little Girl") by three members of the North Alabama White Citizens Council (a group led by Education of Little Tree The Education of Little Tree author Asa "Forrest" Carter Asa Earl Carter , himself not among the attackers), who apparently were attempting to kidnap him. The three male attackers ran down the aisles of the auditorium towards Cole and his band. Although local law enforcement quickly ended the invasion of the stage, the ensuing melée toppled Cole from his piano bench and injured his back. Cole did not finish the concert and never again performed in the South southern United States . A fourth member of the group who had participated in the plot was later arrested in connection with the act. All were later tried and convicted for their roles in the crime.
In 1956 he was contracted to perform in Cuba and wanted to stay at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, Havana, but was not allowed to because it operated a color bar racial segregation . Cole honored his contract, however, and the concert at the Tropicana was a huge success. The following year, he returned to Cuba for another concert, singing many songs in Spanish. There is now a tribute to him in the form of a bust bust (sculpture) and a jukebox in the Hotel Nacional.Throughout the 1950s, Cole continued to rack up hit after hit, including "Smile Smile (Charlie Chaplin song) ", "Pretend Pretend (song) ", "A Blossom Fell", and "If I May". His pop hits were collaborations with well-known arrangers and conductors of the day, including Nelson Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, and Ralph Carmichael. Riddle arranged several of Cole's 1950s albums, including his first 10-inch long-play album, his 1953 Nat King Cole Sings For Two In Love. In 1955, his single "Darling Je Vous Aime Beaucoup" reached #7 on the Billboard Billboard magazine chart. Jenkins arranged Love Is the Thing, which hit #1 on the album charts in April 1957.
In 1958, Cole went to Havana, Cuba to record Cole Español, an album sung entirely in Spanish Spanish language . The album was so po***r in Latin America, as well as in the USA, that two others of the same variety followed: A Mis Amigos (sung in Spanish and Portuguese Portuguese language ) in 1959 and More Cole Español in 1962. A Mis Amigos contains the Venezuelan hit "Ansiedad," whose lyrics Cole had learned while performing in Caracas in 1958. Cole learned songs in languages other than English by rote rote learning .
After the change in musical tastes during the late 1950s, Cole's ballad singing did not sell well with younger listeners, despite a successful stab at rock n' roll with "Send For Me" (peaked at #6 pop). Along with his contemporaries Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Tony Bennett, Cole found that the pop singles chart had been almost entirely taken over by youth-oriented acts. In 1960, Nat's longtime collaborator Nelson Riddle left Capitol Records for Frank Sinatra's newly formed Reprise Records label. Riddle and Cole recorded one final hit album, Wild Is Love, based on lyrics by Ray Rasch and Dotty Wayne. Cole later retooled the concept album into an off-Broadway show, "I'm With You."
Cole did manage to record some hit singles during the 1960s, including the country-flavored hit "Ramblin' Rose" in August 1962 as well as "Dear Lonely Hearts", "Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summer" (his final hit, reaching #6 pop), and "That Sunday, That Summer".
Cole performed in many short films, sitcoms, and television shows and played W. C. Handy in the film St. Louis Blues St. Louis Blues (1958 film) (1958). He also appeared in The Nat King Cole Story, China Gate, and The Blue Gardenia (1953). Cat Ballou (1965), his final film, was released several months after his death.Cole was a heavy smoker of Kool KOOL (cigarette) menthol cigarettes. He believed smoking kept his voice low. (He would smoke several cigarettes in succession before a recording for this very purpose.) He died of lung cancer on February 15, 1965, at St. John's Hospital St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica Santa Monica, California , California. His funeral was held at St. James Episcopal Church on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. His remains were interred inside Freedom Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale) in Glendale Glendale, California .
His last album, L-O-V-E L-O-V-E (album) , was recorded in early December 1964—just a few days before he entered the hospital for cancer treatment—and was released just prior to his death. It peaked at #4 on the Billboard Albums chart in the spring of 1965. A "Best Of" album went gold in 1968. His 1957 recording of "When I Fall In Love" reached #4 in the UK charts in 1987.
In 1983, an archivist for EMI Electrola Records, EMI (Capitol's parent company) Records' subsidiary in Germany, discovered some songs Cole had recorded but that had never been released, including one in Japanese Japanese language and another in Spanish Spanish language ("Tu Eres Tan Amable"). Capitol released them later that year as the LP "Unreleased."
Cole was inducted into both the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. In 1990, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1997 was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame Down Beat . In 2007, he was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
In 1991, Mosaic Records released "The Complete Capitol Capitol Records Recordings of the Nat King Cole Trio," an 18-compact-disc set consisting of 349 songs. (This special compilation also was available as a 27 LP set.)
Cole's youngest brother, Freddy Cole, and Cole's daughter Natalie Natalie Cole are also singers. In the summer of 1991, Natalie Cole and her father had a hit when Natalie mixed her own voice with her father's 1961 rendition of "Unforgettable Unforgettable (song) " as part of a tribute album to her father's music. The song and album of the same name won seven Grammy awards in 1992.There has been some confusion as to Cole's actual year of birth. Cole himself used four different dates on official documents: 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1919. However, Nathaniel is listed with his parents and older siblings in the 1920 U.S. Federal census for Montgomery Ward 7 and his age is given as nine months old. Since this is a contemporary record, it is very likely he was born in 1919. This is also consistent with the 1930 census which finds him at age 11 with his family in Chicago's Ward 3. In the 1920 census, the race of all members of the family (Ed, Perlina, Eddie M., Edward D., Evelina and Nathaniel) is recorded as mulatto. Cole's birth year is also listed as 1919 on the .
Cole's first marriage, to Nadine Robinson, ended in 1948. On March 28, 1948 (Easter Sunday), just six days after his divorce from Nadine became final, Cole married singer Maria Hawkins Ellington. Although Maria had sung with Duke Ellington's band, she is not related to Duke Ellington. Maria and Cole were married in Harlem's Harlem, Manhattan Abyssinian Baptist Church by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. They had five children: daughter Natalie Natalie Cole (born 1950); adopted daughter Carole Carole Cole (the daughter of Maria's sister), (1944-2009), who died of lung cancer aged 64; adopted son Nat Kelly Cole (1959-1995), who died of AIDS at 36; and twin girls Casey and Timolin (born 1961).
In 1948, Cole purchased a house in the all-white whites Hancock Park Hancock Park, Los Angeles, California neighborhood of Los Angeles. Members of the property-owners association told Cole they did not want any undesirables moving in. Cole retorted, "Neither do I. And if I see anybody undesirable coming in here, I'll be the first to complain." The Ku Klux Klan, still active in Los Angeles well into the 1950s, responded by placing a burning cross on his front lawn.
Cole carried on affairs throughout his marriages. By the time he developed lung cancer, he was estranged from his wife Maria in favor of actress Gunilla Hutton, best known as Nurse Goodbody of "Hee Haw" fame. But he was with Maria during his illness, and she stayed with him until his death. In an interview, Maria expressed no lingering resentment over his affairs. Instead, she emphasized his musical legacy and the class he exhibited in all other aspects of his life.
An official United States postage stamp featuring Cole's likeness was issued in 1994.
In 2000 Cole was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the major influences for early Rock and Roll.Cole sang at the 1956 Republican National Convention in the Cow Palace, San Francisco, California, on August 23, 1956. There, his "singing of 'That's All There Is To That' was greeted with applause." He was also present at the Democratic National Convention in 1960 to throw his support behind President John F. Kennedy. Cole was also among the dozens of entertainers recruited by Frank Sinatra to perform at the Kennedy Inaugural gala in 1961. Cole frequently consulted with President Kennedy (and later President Johnson) on civil rights.* 'Ed Sullivan:' Nat King Cole was on The Ed Sullivan Show six times before his own show ran regularly in 1957. He appeared twice after his show ended, once in 1958
**Nat King Cole appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show by: (Season, Episode and Production Number, Air Date, Episode Title)
*** Season 9 (380.9-2 02-Oct-1955)
**** Scheduled: Nat King Cole; "Fanny" cast and Josh Logan
*** Season 9 (383.9-5 23-Oct-1955)
**** Scheduled: Nat King Cole & wife Maria; Jack Palance and Rod Steiger
*** Season 9 (404.9-26 18-Mar-1956)
**** Scheduled: Marcel Marceau; Eli Wallach; Nat King Cole and Cesare Siepe
*** Season 9 (405.9-27 25-Mar-1956)
**** Scheduled: Nat King Cole; Jack Carter and Reese & Davis
*** Season 9 (411.9-33 06-May-1956)
**** Scheduled: Tony Martin; Nat King Cole; Edie Adams; The Lovers and Will Jordan
*** Season 9 (416.9-38 10-Jun-1956)
**** Scheduled: Nat King Cole; Bob Hope (on film); Jack Carter and film: "A Short Vision"
*** Season 11 (510.11-29 13-Apr-1958)
**** Scheduled: Nat King Cole; Mickey Mantle; Yogi Berra and Jack Norworth
*** Season 14 (648.14-16 29-Jan-1961)
**** Scheduled: Carmen McRae; Carol Channing and Nat King Cole
* 'The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom' (singing duets with the host, October 1, 1959)
* 'Dinah Shore:' Nat King Cole was also on The Dinah Shore Show – singing "Mr. Cole Won’t Rock & Roll" — in the early-1960s.
* Your Show of Shows ... aka Sid Caesar's Show of Shows - Episode dated September 12, 1953.
* What's My Line? (Mystery Guest, December 6, 1953)
* An Evening With Nat King Cole BBC Special 1963.
*Citizen Kane (1941 1941 in film ) (off-screen)
*Here Comes Elmer (1943 1943 in film )
*Pistol Packin' Mama (1943)
*Pin Up Girl (1944 1944 in film )
*Stars on Parade (1944)
*Swing in the Saddle (1944)
*See My Lawyer (1945 1945 in film )
*Breakfast in Hollywood (1946 1946 in film )
*Killer Diller Killer Diller (1948 film) (1948 1948 in film )
*Make Believe Ballroom (1949 1949 in film )
*The Blue Gardenia The Blue Gardenia (film) (1953 1953 in film )
*Small Town Girl Small Town Girl (1953 film) (1953)
*Rock 'n' Roll Revue (1955 1955 in film )
*Rhythm and Blues Revue (1955)
*Basin Street Revue (1956 1956 in film )
*The Scarlet Hour (1956)
*Istanbul (1957 1957 in film )
*China Gate China Gate (1957 film) (1957)
*St. Louis Blues St. Louis Blues (1958 film) (1958 1958 in film )
*Night of the Quarter Moon (1959 1959 in film )
*Schlager-Raketen (1960 1960 in film )
*Cat Ballou (1965 1965 in film )
*King Cole Trio & Benny Carter Orchestra (1950 1950 in film )
*Nat King Cole and Joe Adams Orchestra (1952 1952 in film )
*Nat King Cole and Russ Morgan and His Orchestra (1953 1953 in film )
*The Nat King Cole Musical Story (1955 1955 in film )
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Nat King Cole
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