Nat King Cole was scouted by the Negro Leagues before he got into music.
Nat King Cole won a Golden Globe in 1963 for "international contribution to the recording world."
Nat King Cole's singing career began largely by accident. Performing as a pianist with his trio in the late 1930s, a customer in a club asked to hear "Sweet Lorraine." Cole said he wasn't a singer, but the club's manager pressured him to sing, since the man was one of their best customers. That marked the unofficial start of Cole's career as a singer.
Nat King Cole initially disliked the ballad "Mona Lisa," but in 1950 it reached #1 on the charts and sold 3 million copies, becoming one of his signature hits.
Though he wrote "Straighten Up and Fly Right" and the song became one of his biggest hits, Nat King Cole sold the song for $50 and never made any more money from it as its writer.
Nat King Cole is the father of Grammy-award winning singer Natalie Cole.
Nat King Cole cut his final recordings for his L.O.V.E. album two weeks before his death in 1965.
One of Nat King Cole's biggest hits, "Straighten Up and Fly Right," was a song he composed, based on a folk tale his father used in a sermon.
In 1948, Nat King Cole and his family moved into the exclusive (and all-white) Los Angeles neighborhood of Hancock Park. When told by the property owners' association that they did not want any "undesirables" in the neighborhood, Cole replied, "Neither do I. And if I see anybody undesirable coming in here, I'll be the first to complain."
Nat King Cole was a heavy smoker, often smoking three packs a day. He felt that it helped to keep his voice low, and would often chain-smoke before performances to achieve this effect. Ultimately, it led to his death from lung cancer at age 45.
In 1946, Nat King Cole and his trio sponsored their own 15-minute radio show called "King Cole Trio Time." It was the first radio program sponsored by a black artist.
As a boy living in Chicago, Nat King Cole would sneak into clubs and listen to performances by jazz legends Louis Armstrong, Earl "Fatha" Hines, and Jimmie Noone.
In 1990, Nat King Cole was awarded the Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Nat King Cole was one of many entertainers recruited by Frank Sinatra to perform at John F. Kennedy's innauguration in 1961. Cole also campaigned for Kennedy and consulted with him on civil rights.
In 1956, while performing in Birmingham, Alabama, Nat King Cole was attacked on stage by members of the racist group the White Citizens' Council in what was apparently a kidnapping attempt. Cole never again performed in the South.
Revenue from Nat King Cole's albums were a crucial part of the early success of Capitol Records. When the distinctive Capitol Records building was constructed, it was known as "the house that Nat built."
His television show, The Nat King Cole Show, was canceled in 1957 because sponsors were unwilling to support a program with an African-American star. This led Cole to comment, "Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark."
He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6659 Hollywood Blvd.
Nat King Cole: The only sport I'm not interested in is horse racing, and that's because I don't know the horses personally.
Nat King Cole: Mine is a casual approach to a song; I lean heavily on the lyrics. By that I mean I try to tell a story with the melody as background.
Nat King Cole: (describing his musical influence, Earl "Fatha" Hines) It was his driving force that appealed to me. I was just a kid and coming up, but I latched onto that new Hines style. Guess I still show the influence today.
Nat King Cole: For years the Trio did nothing but play for musicians and other hip people. We practically starved to death.