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Nat King Cole

Nat "King" Cole (March 17, 1919 - February 15, 1965) was born Nathaniel Adams Coles in Montgomery, Alabama, USA, a singer and jazz musician.

Childhood and Chicago

The year of this birth has also been reported as 1917 and 1915, but according to Daniel Mark Epstein's biography of Cole, the 1920 Census reports Nat as an infant.

Nat's father was a butcher in Montgomery and a deacon in the baptist church. His family moved to Chicago, Illinois while he was still a young child. His father became a baptist minister and his mother acted as the church organist. Nat learned how to play piano as a young child. The family lived in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, which was famous in the late-20s for its nightlife and jazz clubs. As a youngster, Nat would sneak out of the house and hang outside the clubs listening to artists like Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, and Jimmie Noone.

He began his performing career in the mid-1930s while he was still a young teen and adopted the name "Nat Cole". His older brother, Eddie Coles, a bassist, soon joined Nat's band and they first recorded in 1936. They had some success as a local band in and around Chicago.

Los Angeles and the King Cole Trio

Nat married Nadine Robinson and moved to Los Angeles where he formed the Nat King Cole Trio. The trio consisted of Nat on Piano, Oscar Moore on Guitar, and Wesley Prince on Bass. The trio played in Los Angeles throughout the late 1930s and recorded many radio transcriptions.

Cole did not achieve widespread popularity until Sweet Lorraine in 1940 (see 1940 in music). During World War II, Wesley Prince was drafted, and Cole replaced him with Johnny Miller.

The King Cole Trio signed with the fledgling Capitol Records in the early 1940s and stayed with the recording company throughout his career. By the 1950s, Cole's popularity was so great that the Capitol Records building, on Hollywood and Vine, was sometimes referred to "The House that Nat Built".

Singing Career

Virtually unique at the time, Cole reached out to mainstream audiences with the #1 hit Mona Lisa in 1950. This began a new phase in his career, primarily as a pop balladeer, though he never totally ignored his roots in jazz.

In the 1940s, Cole was the first African-American to have his own radio program. He repeated that success in the late-1950s with the first truly national television show starring an African-American.

In 1948 Cole purchased a house in the all-white Hancock Park neighborhood in Los Angeles, California. The property owners association told Cole they didn't want any undesireables moving in. Cole retorted "Neither do I. And if I see anybody undesireable coming in here, I'll be the first to complain."

He married Maria Ellington and had several children. His daughter, Natalie Cole and his younger brother, Freddie Cole are both singers.

Nat King Cole died of lung cancer in 1965 and was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California, USA.

Notable Songs

Straighten Up and Fly Right
Sweet Lorraine
Nature Boy (written by Eden Ahbez)
Mona Lisa
Lush Life
Ramblin' Rose