Nat King Cole, was an American singer and musician who first came to prominence
as a leading jazz pianist. He was widely noted for his soft, baritone voice, which he
used to perform in big band and jazz genres. Cole was one of the first African
Americans to host a television variety show, The Nat King Cole Show, and has
maintained worldwide popularity since his death from lung cancer in February 1965.
Inspired by the performances of Earl Hines, Cole began his performing career in the
mid-1930s while still a teenager, adopting the name "Nat Cole". His older brother,
Eddie, a bass player, soon joined Cole's band, and they made their first recording in
1936 under Eddie's name. They also were regular performers at clubs. Cole, in fact,
acquired his nickname, "King", performing at one jazz club, a nickname presumably
reinforced by the otherwise unrelated nursery rhyme about Old King Cole. He also
was a pianist in a national tour of Broadway theatre legend Eubie Blake's revue,
"Shuffle Along". When it suddenly failed in Long Beach, California, Cole decided to
remain there. He would later return to Chicago in triumph to play such venues as the
famed Edgewater Beach Hotel.