Nat King Cole
Nathaniel Adams Coles, known professionally as Nat “King” Cole, was an American musician who first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist. Although an accomplished pianist, he owes most of his popular musical fame to his soft baritone voice, which he used to perform in big band and jazz genres. He was one of the first black Americans to host a television variety show, and has maintained worldwide popularity since his untimely death; he is widely considered one of the most important musical personalities in United States history.
Nathaniel Adams Coles was born in Montgomery, Alabama, on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1919. At the age of 4, his family moved to Chicago, Illinois. There his father, Edward Coles, became a Baptist minister. Cole learned to play the organ from his mother, Perlina Coles, the church organist. His first performance, at age four, was of “Yes! We Have No Bananas”. He began formal lessons at the age of 12, eventually learning not only jazz and gospel music but also European classical music, performing, as he said, “from Johann Sebastian Bach to Sergei Rachmaninoff”.
Cole had three brothers – Eddie, Ike, and Freddy. Cole’s half-sister, Joyce Cole, married Robert Doak, of Robert Doak & Associates, Inc., art supplier.
The family lived in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. Cole would sneak out of the house and hang around outside the clubs, listening to artists such as Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, and Jimmie Noone. He participated in Walter Dyett’s renowned music program at DuSable High School.