Nathaniel Adams Cole was a world renowned Jazz musician, born on March 17, 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama. Starting off with an incredible skill with the organ, Cole became a multi-instrumentalist, later learning the piano as well as vocals. He was particularly known for his baritone voice, as is heard on some of the most popular Jazz tunes that Cole composed. Cole mainly focused on the genres specific to vocal Jazz, Swing and Traditional Pop. Beginning what was to be an illustrious career in music at the tender age of 4, Cole had a natural talent to stun and startle audiences with an incredible understanding of music.
Cole began his music career in the 1930s, occasioning bars and casual hang outs. However, it was only by the mid-1930s when along with Oscar Moore on guitar, and Wesley Prince on double bass, Cole formed the King Cole Swingsters or the King Cole Trio. They performed regularly in local bars and clubs throughout the late 1930s, and after gaining significant popularity, were called upon to feature in some of the most acclaimed Radio shows of the time. Some examples include the NBC’s Blue Network and Swing Soiree. In the early 1940s, the trio featured in shows such as Old Gold, Chesterfield Supper Club and Kraft Music Hall, while also being star guests on CBS Radio’s The Orson Welles Almanac in 1944. What is often termed the ‘revolutionary lineup’ of a Pianist, Guitarist and Bassist became an emulated model followed by other artists such as Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson and Ahmad Jamal, among others. Around the same time, the King Cole Trio signed up with Capital Records that remained their longstanding partners throughout the 1940s.
It was only until 1943 when the Trio had their first major hit, a recording by the name of “Straighten Up and Fly Right”, based on a Black folk tale dear to Cole. After the Second World War, the Trio considered having their own 15-minute Radio Show, later named King Cole Trio Time. While the show was meant to be a usual radio broadcast, many songs that later became classics of the Trio were made here. However, by this time, much to the dismay of Jazz enthusiasts, Cole began transforming his musical roots to that of the Pop genre. During this time, he composed several of his most famous tracks, with the likes of “The Christmas Song” popularizing his new found passion. Up until 1951, tracks such as “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” (1946), “Nature Boy” (1948), “Mona Lisa” (1950), “Too Young” and “Unforgettable” (1951) were regularly performed on the Radio. While this abrupt transition was often considered to be distraction on the part of Cole, he never really abandoned his original love for Jazz. As late as 1956, Cole would regularly compose Jazz tracks with the likes of hit album, After Midnight, still stunning audiences. During the same period, singles such as “Smile”, “Pretend”, “A Blossom Fell”, and “If I May” provided ample evidence of the greatness of a Jazz prodigy. Even towards the end of his life, Cole managed to continue his streak of hit singles with “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” reaching #6 on the Pop Chart.
Nat King Cole passed away on February 15, 1965, in Santa Monica, California, U.S at the age of 45 due to complications from lung cancer.