Get Today in Masonic History into your Inbox. Sign up today for one of our email lists!

TODAY in Masonic History:

Facebook Twitter Google

Nathaniel Adams Coles (A.K.A Nat King Cole) Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Nathaniel Adams Coles (A.K.A Nat King Cole) passes away in 1965.

Nathaniel Adams Coles (A.K.A Nat King Cole) was an American musician and entertainer.

Cole was born in Montgomery, Alabama on March 17th, 1919. When he was four years old the family moved to Chicago, Illinois where his father became a Baptist minister. His mother, who was the church organist, began teaching Cole how to play the organ. Shortly after he gave his first performance of Yes! We have no bananas. He began formal lessons at the age of 12. He would eventually learn gospel, jazz and Western classical music. He attended Wendell Phillips High School in Chicago. At night he would sneak out to listen to music outside clubs.

It was in the 1930's that Cole began his performing career. He would also adopt the stage name of Nat Cole. His older brother would eventually join Cole's band. It was during this time that Cole added King in his name. It is believed that it was reinforced by the nursery rhyme of Old King Cole.

Cole traveled with his band and eventually ended up in Los Angeles, California where the band suddenly failed. After his first group failed, Cole started another and was soon appearing on radio with the band. Up to this point, Cole did not sing. He quickly discovered that doing vocal pieces in between instrumental numbers was a crowd pleaser. Legend has it that Cole only sang after a drunk bar patron demanded that he sang Sweet Lorraine. Cole himself said that is was not true, it was such a good story that he just let it go. Like most legends there was an element of truth to the story, after he began singing in between instrumental numbers a drunk patron did demand that Cole sing a song that he did not know the words to. So Cole sang Sweet Lorraine for which the band was tipped $0.15, which equal to just over $2 today.

In 1943, Cole signed with Capital Records. Records and music produced by Cole during his contract with Capital Records were very lucrative for the company. The now famous round office building of Capital Records is often referred to as "The House that Nat Built."

In 1946, the Cole trio paid to have their own 15 minute radio program on NBC. It was the first program to be sponsored by a black performing artist.

In 1956, The Nat King Cole Show debuted on NBC. It was a variety program that included many of the big names of the time. Many of whom worked for scale of for free to help the show stay afloat financially. Although the show was very popular a national sponsor for the show never materialized and after a year and a half, Cole himself pulled the plug on the show. When the show went off the air Cole quipped "Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark."

It was also in 1956 that Cole started to be attacked from all sides on the subject of Civil Rights and on racism. While appearing on stage in Alabama three men rushed the stage, it is believed, trying to kidnap Cole. Local police were able to break up the attack and the men involved were arrested and convicted. At the same time, Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP were attacking Cole for playing to segregated audiences in the south. Marshall even referred to Cole as an Uncle Tom. African-American run newspapers in the North called Cole's performances to segregated audiences an "insult to his race." One also said that to play "Uncle Nat's" discs "would be supporting his 'traitor' ideas and narrow thinking." Despite these attacks, Cole continued his concerts to segregated audiences. He also continued his support of the Civil Rights movement, which he was very active in, despite the implications of Marshall and others.

Cole also consulted with John F. Kennedy and later, Lyndon B. Johnson on matters of Civil Rights.

In 1964, Cole began losing weight and by December of that same year had been diagnosed with lung cancer. On February 15th, 1965, after successfully having one of lungs removed, Cole passed away.

In 1991, Cole's daughter, Natalie Cole, who had a successful singing career of her own, was able to sing a duet with her father. Through advances in recording technologies, Natalie was able to sing the song Unforgettable as a duet with her father.

Cole was raised in Thomas Waller Lodge No. 49 Los Angeles, California in 1944.