The American musician acclaimed for being one of the most brilliant pianists of the swing era achieved his greatest commercial success, however, as a vocalist being considered one of the best singers in the history of jazz.
Raised in Chicago, he took advantage of his father’s work as a church pastor to sing and play the organ there since he was 12 years old. Before turning 18 he managed to form his first jazz group, Royal Dukes. In 1937, he began playing jazz clubs in Los Angeles. There he formed the King Cole Trio with guitarist Oscar Moore (later replaced by Irving Ashby) and bassist Wesley Prince (later replaced by Johnny Miller).
Between the late 1930s and early 1940s, the group made several instrumental recordings and others with a vocal component. His biggest success came when Cole began doubling his duties as a solo singer. Known for his warm tone and impeccable phrasing, he was considered one of the best male vocalists, although jazz critics lamented his departure from the piano.
Cole’s popularity allowed him to become the first African American to host an entertainment show. The Nat King Cole Show, which debuted on NBC television in 1956, fell victim to the bigotry of the time and was canceled after one season as few backers were willing to partner with a black artist.
Cole was most successful thanks to his concerts in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His early 1960s hits, Ramblin ‘Rose, Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer and LOVE, indicate that he was drifting away. even more of his jazz roots and he was concentrating almost exclusively on mainstream pop. However, adapting his style was a factor that kept Cole in the popular spotlight until his early death from lung cancer in 1965.