WRTI's Essential Jazz Artist No. 13: Nat King Cole

Jan 25, 2017

Called "the best friend a song ever had," Nathaniel Adams Cole was such a huge success in popular music that Capitol Records became known as “The House that Nat Built.” He was a leading jazz pianist, but it was his light and liquid singing of “Mona Lisa,” “Nature Boy,” and many other hits that won millions of fans in three decades. He's your No. 13 Essential Jazz Artist on WRTI.

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More interesting facts about Nat King Cole:

  • In 1956, he became the first African-American performer to host a TV variety series

  • Ten years earlier, King Cole Trio Time was the first radio program sponsored by a black performing artist. The trio paid for the airtime themselves. 

  • The story for his first hit, 1943’s “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” came from one of his father’s sermons

  • Nelson Riddle had to stop a recording session because of noise. He found Cole, an avid baseball fan, in another room listening to a game on the radio.


Nat King Cole’s “Frim Fram Sauce” leads a food parade that Meridee Duddleston appreciates.