When Cole was four, his father became a Baptist Minister and he learned to play the organ. His first live performance as a child was ‘Yes! We Have No Bananas’. At age twelve, he started professional lessons which eventually led him not only to jazz music, but to gospel, as well as classical music. He is recognized for his soft, baritone voice and talented piano playing.
His first prevailing hit was his 1943 recording of ‘Straighten Up and Fly Right’, composed by himself and Irving Mills, and played with The Nat King Cole Trio. Cole wrote the song based on a black folktale his father had used in his sermons. It would go on to sell over 500,000 copies, helping out Capital Records when they needed it most.
Later, Cole would go on to host his own variety show, The Nat King Cole Show, being one of the first African-Americans to do so. He has sustained worldwide popularity since his passing in 1965.