February 10, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: The King Cole Trio
Nathaniel Adams Cole was born in Montgomery Alabama but grew up in Chicago. He learned to play piano from his mother who was the church organist at his father’s baptist church.
As a young man he used to sneak out of the house at night to hear the likes of Louis Armstrong and Jimmie Noone who was working in Chicago clubs. The musician that he heard that had the biggest influence was Earl "Fatha" Hines who was playing the Grand Terrace in Chicago.
In 1937 he was part of a travelling revival of Sissle and Blakes' "Shuffle Along." They got as far as Long Beach, CA where the show folded and he and his new wife were stranded.
He scuffled up and down the west coast from San Diego to Bakersfield before landing at the Century Club in Santa Monica.
From there he moved to The Swanee Inn on LaBrea where he was ask by management to put together a trio. His new friend Lionel Hampton suggested guitarist Oscar Moore and
bassist Wesley Prince. Lee Young was slated to be the drummer but it turned out that the drummer-less trio worked best in the small club setting. It influenced countless others and became known as the “cocktail combo.” Others may have emulated the instrumentation but nothing else matched the sound of the trio.
The King Cole Trio was revolutionary. Three musical minds working together as one in a way no one had ever heard before. As the trio progressed Nat began singing which garnered much attention.
By 1938 the trio began recording for some transcription services and eventually Decca Records where he recorded his first big hit "Sweet Lorraine." The records were an instant sensation and Nat King Cole had a rapid rise to stardom.
In 1943 they signed with the newly formed Capitol records and reached new heights. Hit after hit helped put Capitol on the map. In addition to his amazing singing voice, Nat was one of the great jazz piano players. He became so famous as a singer that his importance as a piano player was lost through the years. Plus he became so in demand as a vocalist that eventually the trio format was dropped in favor of larger ensemble settings.
He went on to become one of the biggest stars in the world. Among his many accomplishments included being the first African-American to host his own television show in the late 1950s.
Today we celebrate the early years of the Nat King Cole Trio formed right here on the west coast.