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Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole was one of the most popular singers ever to hit the American charts. A brilliant recording and concert artist during the 40's, 50's and 60's, he attracted millions of fans around the world with a sensitive and caressing singing voice that was unmistakable.

Cole has a rare blend of technical musical knowledge and sheer performing artistry topped off with an abundance of showmanship. In the 23 years that he recorded with Capitol Records, he turned out hit after amazing hit - nearly 700 songs - all the while managing to remain a gentle, tolerant and gracious human being.

Nathaniel Adams Coles was born in Montgomery, Alabama on March 17, 1919. He was the son of Baptist minister, Edward James Coles, and mother, Perlina Adams, who sang soprano and directed the choir in her husband's church. Cole grew up in Chicago, met and married a girl in New York; they had five children and lived in Hancock Park in Los Angeles.

He had a distinctive voice, which has been compared to the quality of velvet, a pussy willow, a calm evening breeze, a still summer morning and a soft snow fall. In the case of Nat King Cole, who dropped an "s" off his last name and put a nickname in the middle, the lyricism is merited.

The first sign that Cole was destined for a musical life was at age four, when he was able to pick out a fairly good two-handed rendition of "Yes, We Have No Bananas." He later played the organ in his father's church. In high school he organized a 14-piece band, with himself as pianist and leader.

In 1937, after finishing high school, Cole joined a road company of the revue, "Shuffle Along." The show broke up a few months later in Long Beach, California, when a sticky-fingered member of the troop made off with the show's $800 treasury. He also wrote a song called "Straighten Up and Fly Right," which he sold for $50.

Cole spent the next period looking for work and not having much luck. Finally a night club manager offered him $75 per week for an instrumental quartet. He hired a guitarist, bass fiddle player and a drummer. On opening night the drummer didn't show up but the manager took trio and didn't cut the price.

Even though instrumental trios were not highly popular in those days, the King Cole Trio developed a large and faithful following. With Cole on the piano and later, vocals, Oscar Moore on guitar and Johnny Miller on bass, the trio eventually played the best clubs in the country and had their own radio show. They eventually won awards from every music publication in the U.S., and their jazz records are now treasured collectors' items.

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