Smorgasbord Music Column 2022 – William Price King meets the Jazz Icons – Nat King Cole The Early Years


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 Early Years.

The Early Early Nat King Cole Trio

Nat King Cole was born under the name of Nathaniel Adams Cole on March 17, 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama. His parents were Edward Cole (Baptist preacher) and Perlina Cole (church organist).

He had three brothers, Eddie, Ike, and Freddy, and a half- sister Joyce. When he was four years old his family moved from Montgomery to Chicago. It was at that time that Nat started discovering music as a passion of his own. Under his mother’s tutelage he learned to play the organ and would soon make his first performance as a singer interpreting “Yes. We have no bananas,” a novelty song by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn from the 1922 Broadway revue Make it Snappy by Eddie Cantor. The song had become a major hit in 1923.

There have been many covers of the song over the last 90 years and here is one of the first recordings with Irving Kaufman providing the vocals. You can hear why it might have ignited a young boy’s imagination –Irving Kaufman – Topic

Nat’s passion for music continued and led to formal piano lessons by the age of 12, as he pursued jazz, gospel, and the classics from Bach to Rachmaninoff.

The family lived in the Bronzeville a neighborhood of Chicago. He would sneak out of the house and hang around outside the clubs, listening to artists such as Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, and Jimmie Noone. Not only did the piano lessons train his fingers but these artists further developed his “ear.”

Here is an early piece by the great Louis Armstrong and if you compare some of the ballads that Nat King Cole was to become so famous for it is clear that he took influences from the Master of Jazz.

Nat was inspired by another of the great musicians of the time Earl Hines who was hugely popular in the late 20s and early 30s. He was one of the most influential musicians in the development of Jazz Piano and in later years Count Basie said that Hines was “The greatest piano player in the world.” Here is one of his iconic pieces – Boogie Woogie on Saint Louis Blues  Jack Gibbons

Nat was hooked on the heady music that was not only being played but also recorded at the time. He wanted in and he dropped out of school at the age of 15 to play “jazz piano” full time. He took a stage name almost immediately, from Nathaniel he chose “Nat.” His brother, Eddie, a bass player, joined with him as he formed his first trio. He then took the name “Nat King Cole,” which was derived from an old nursery rhyme “Old King Cole.” That was the beginning of what was to become a legend. The trio performed in all of the jazz venues in the Chicago area making their first professional recording in 1936.

The Nat King Cole Trio - The Complete Capitol Transcription Sessions

One of their first recordings was “It’s only a Paper Moon” and here is the Nat King Cole Trio in 1933. It also featured on their first album along with some of their versions of some of the iconic songs of the period, written by such amazing composers and lyricists as Billy Rose.

Next time we move into the 1940s with its iconic tunes that are still so popular today. 

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.

Blog– IMPROVISATION William Price King on Tumblr – Buy William’s music: William Price King iTunes – FacebookWilliam Price King – Twitter@wpkofficial
Regular Venue – Cave Wilson

Additional source: Wikipedia

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