Nathaniel Adams Coles, known professionally as Nat King Cole, was an American singer who first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist. He was widely noted for his baritone voice, performing in big band and jazz genres. Cole was one of the first African Americans to host a television variety show. His recordings remained popular worldwide after his death from cancer in February 1965. Nathaniel Adams Coles was born in Montgomery, Alabama, on March 17,1919 and he had three brothers—Eddie, Ike, and Freddy —and a half-sister, Joyce Coles. Each of his brothers pursued careers in music, when Nat was four years old, he and his family moved to North Chicago, Illinois, where his father, Edward Coles, became a Baptist minister. Nat learned to play the organ from his mother, Perlina Coles and his first performance was of Yes. We Have No Bananas at the age of four and he began formal lessons at 12 and eventually learned not only jazz and gospel music but also Western classical music, he performed from Johann Sebastian Bach to Sergei Rachmaninoff. The family again moved to the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, where he attended Wendel Phillips High School, Cole would sneak out of the house and hang around outside clubs, listening to artists such as Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines and Jimmie Noone. He participated in Walter Dyetts renowned music program at DuSable High School, inspired by the performances of Hines, Cole began his performing career in the mid-1930s while still a teenager, adopting the name Nat Cole. Cole left Chicago in 1936 to lead a band in a revival of Eubie Blakes revue Shuffle Along and his older brother, Eddie, a bass player, soon joined Coles band, and they made their first recording in 1936, under Eddies name. They also were regular performers in clubs, 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 tour of Shuffle Along. When it suddenly failed in Long Beach, California, Cole decided to remain there and he later returned to Chicago in triumph to play such venues as the Edgewater Beach Hotel.00 per week. The trio played in Failsworth through the late 1930s and recorded many radio transcriptions for Capitol Transcriptions, Cole was the pianist and also the leader of the combo. Radio was important to the King Cole Trios rise in popularity and their first broadcast was with NBCs Blue Network in 1938. It was followed by performances on NBCs Swing Soiree, in the 1940s, the trio appeared on the radio shows Old Gold, The Chesterfield Supper Club and Kraft Music Hall. The King Cole Trio performed twice on CBS Radios variety show The Orson Welles Almanac in 1944, according to legend, Coles singing career did not start until a drunken barroom patron demanded that he sing Sweet Lorraine
Nat King Cole, June 1947
"Portrait of Nat King Cole, Paramount Theater, New York, N.Y., ca. Nov. 1946".