It is eight years since William Price King joined Smorgasbord to share music across the genres. It is six years since we have featured the icons and delighted to showcase them again in 2022.
For over 30 years William Price King has been paying his tribute to two musicians who have influenced not just musicians, but all of us as we listened to their music. Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. Certainly many love stories began and sometimes ended whilst dancing to their music. In the next two features on the Jazz greats, William will be sharing some of their most iconic music, the musicians who influenced their passion for music and the highs and lows of their careers and personal lives.
Nat King Cole – The 1940s.
In Part One of the Nat King Cole tribute; we met the young Nat and followed his early career and today we will look at the next ten years and include some of the music which made this increasingly popular young musician a phenomenon.
William also looks at the other musicians that Nat partnered with in what was to become the very successful group of musicians the King Cole Trio.
The young Nat had attracted the attention of James Hubert Blake known in the business as Eubie Blake, a composer and lyricist who also was a master of the Jazz Piano and Ragtime. Eubie was responsible for many of the popular songs of the day such as ‘Charleston Rag‘ and ‘Love will find a Way‘ and after hearing Nat play, hired him on as the pianist for his ‘Shuffle Along’ revue which was on a national tour.
Here is Eubie Blake aged 98 playing Charleston Rag and proving that music is definitely good for you! Uploaded bykenjikent
The tour of ‘Shuffle Along’ ended in Long Beach, California where Nat decided to stay and build on his career from there. For starters, he formed the group the “King Cole Swingsters.” Nat was on the piano, of course, Oscar Moore on the guitar, and Wesley Prince on the double bass.
Oscar Moore was an American swing jazz guitarist and his contribution to the trio was significant over the ten years 1937 to 1947 and he performed on the majority of the recordings from that period. Wesley Prince was a Jazz Bassist and apart from the King Cole Swingers he played with Lionel Hampton a percussionist, pianist and band leader who was ranked one of the best Jazz musicians of the time. Having these two experienced and talented musicians as part of the trio paved the way for the success of the group in the years before the Second World War.
Here is one of Nat King’s Cole early classics ‘What Can I Say After I Say I’m Sorry‘ Uploaded byRevolucionario1931
On a personal note, at the age of 17 Nat married Nadine Robinson. Very little is known about her and about their years together. Unfortunately this marriage came to an end in 1948 when he divorced and suddenly married Maria Hawkins Ellington (no relation to the Duke), but who sang with the Duke Ellington orchestra. This marriage yielded five children, among whom was Nathalie Cole who went on to become a super star long after her father’s death. Here is one of the Trio’s hits ‘If I had You’ – Uploaded by Nat King Cole
Back in California with the “King Cole Swingsters,” Nat understood the importance of radio, and in particular, live radio. The “King Cole Swingsters” became the King Cole Trio and their rise in popularity became evident after their first radio broadcast on NBC’s Blue in Network in 1938. From there they spiralled on to many more radio shows including the Orson Welles Almanac in 1944.
Nat Cole, early on, began singing between instrumentals. Noticing the audiences appreciated his vocal prowess, he happily added more songs, and created the rumour that one night a drunken man asked him to sing. He knew that rumours always worked well with the press and consequently the public. Here is another popular recording ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ – Uploaded by cuzinkevin
Thanks to his popularity on the radio, Nat Cole was able to build a substantial audience and consequently get more and better paying gigs. When the war broke out (World War II) the bass player, Wesley Prince, left the trio and was replaced by Johnny Miller from Los Angeles. He would ultimately be replaced by Charlie Harris who had played with Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie and who can be heard on such recordings as Unforgettable and Mona Lisa.
To finish this post in the series I asked William to share one of his personal favourites from the Nat King Cole portfolio – also covered by Mel Torme. Here is William Price King with My Funny Valentine.
Next time we move into the 1950s with more of the iconic Nat King Cole
Additional source: Wikipedia
William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.
His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.
While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.
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