Born Nathaniel Adams Cole in Montgomery, Alabama, his father was a Baptist minister and an influential leader in the segregated black community. His mother was the choir director for his father's church and introduced piano music to Nat when he was 4 years old. He began learning to play by ear even before he learned to read. At the age of 12, to further his already broad knowledge of the instrument, he began taking classical piano lessons. While growing up in the black communities of Chicago, Cole was introduced to jazz music. His passion for the free form style that it presented was influential and at 15, Cole quit school to pursue a career as a jazz pianist. His first professional experience as a musician came when he was asked to join the jazz style revival show "Shuffle Along." When the touring show folded while in Los Angeles, Cole began working at a night club there called the Century Club. It was at this time that one of the club's managers began referring to him as "King" Cole.
At the age of 20 Cole started a jazz trio with two musician friends, Oscar Moore and Wesley Prince. The trio produced a unique sound with the absence of a drummer and was made up of only three instruments, piano, rhythm guitar, and bass. Cole soon became the recognized leader when he added vocals to the group's instrumental music. Now known as the King Cole Trio they found their first success with the song "Straighten Up and Fly Right" released by Capitol Records. The song was co-written by Cole and was based on a sermon he had heard his father give when he was a child. It became a hit and launched Cole's career as a popular singer around the country.
In 1946, Cole released "<a href="https://www.songfacts.com/facts/nat-king-cole/the-christmas-song">The Christmas Song</a>" and showcased the soft, melodic side of his vocal abilities that were rarely heard before that point. "The Christmas Song" became a seasonal hit for Cole and began his transition from jazz musician and front man to solo artist.
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