One of the greatest Pop crooners never intended to be one.
"I started out to become a jazz pianist; in the meantime I started singing and I sang the way I felt and that's just the way it came out." — Nat King Cole
Born Nathaniel Adams Coles 99 years ago in Montgomery, Alabama, Cole and his family moved to Chicago when Nat was just 4 years old,. Upon their move, his father became a preacher. His mother, the church organist, initially taught Nat how how to play the keyboards. At the age of 12, he started taking formal lessons, leaning Jazz, Pop, Country and Classical styles. When Nat was still a teenager in high school, he would sneak out at night and go to clubs, listening to the likes of Louis Armstrong. After receiving his diploma, he started touring in a Jazz trio as the keyboardist; it was during this time that acquired the name "King" Cole, attributing it to the children's nursery rhyme Old King Cole, and it stuck.
The trio eventually ended up the South Bay area of Los Angeles. When the initial trio broke up, Cole stayed. He continued to perform in clubs in the greater Los Angeles area. It was at this time that he started singing, often only at the request of patrons, who would tip the band to hear songs they wanted performed, and "Sweet Lorraine", a Jazz age classic written by Cliff Burrell, was a common request. Also during this time was Cole's trio being featured, on their own dime, on NBC radio broadcasts, broadening their reach of listeners. In the early 1940's. songwriter Johnny Mercer asked Cole and his group to sign a recording contract with the brand new American subsidiary of EMI Records he was running called Capitol.
Nat "King" Cole, 1956, from his short-lived NBC television program. Courtesy of NBC/Universal.
It was at Capitol, his sole label throughout his career, that he became so famous that the label was once known as "The House that Nat Built" and was their biggest-selling artist until the arrival of The Beatles. He went from being a Jazz pianist to a Jazz crooner, to a Pop crooner to becoming the bedrock of what would eventually be known as Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary, before we even had such phrases to bandy about. He also was the first Black person to host his own television program in the mid-1950's. Cole's name has become synonymous with a type of classy, some would say regal, type of suave and romantic balladeering due in no small part to his impeccable timing and smooth delivery.
Today, the 15th of February, marks the day that Cole died from lung cancer in 1965. This program is presented as a memorial tribute.
Our tracks this week, presented in chronological order: Title, Year
1. Straighten Up And Fly Right, 1943*
2. Sweet Lorraine, 1943*
3. (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66, 1946*
4. (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons, 1946*
5. A Boy From Texas, A Girl From Tennessee, 1947*
6. Mona Lisa, 1950
7. Too Young, 1951
8. Unforgettable, 1951
9. A Fool Was I, 1952
10. Tenderly, 1953
11. Hajji Baba (Persian Lament), 1954
12. A Blossom Fell, 1954
13. That's All There Is To That, 1955 (w/The Four Knights)
14. Stardust, 1958
15. When I Fall In Love, 1956
16. Non Dimenticar (Don't Forget), 1958
17. Ramblin' Rose, 1962
18. Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days Of Summer, 1963
19. L-O-V-E, 1964
* denotes recordings made with the Nat King Cole Trio
Love to you all.
Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
Ace of Spades PDX
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