Nat King Cole was born Nathaniel Adams Coles at Montgomery, Alabama. He received music lessons from his mother and his family moved to Chicago when he was only five, where his father Edward James Coles was a minister at the True Light Baptist Church and later Pastor of the First Baptist Church.
At 12 he was playing the church organ and at 14 he formed a 14 piece band called the Royal Dukes. Nat was a top flight sandlot baseball player at Wendell Phillips high school in Chicago. His three brothers, Ike, Eddie Cole and Frankie also played the piano and sang professionally.
Nat was also an above-average football player in high school. His sister Evelyn Cole was a beautician in nearby Waukegan, Illinois. In 1939 he formed the King Cole Trio after his publicist put a silver tin-foiled crown on his head and proclaimed him King.
He later toured Europe and made a command performance before Queen Elizabeth II. He had a highly-rated TV show in the 1950s but it was canceled (by Cole himself) because no companies could be found that were willing to sponsor the show.
He was a big baseball fan and had a permanent box seat at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. He met his wife Maria Cole (a big-band singer) at the Zanzibar nightclub in Los Angeles through Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson show.
Her parents protested her decision to marry Cole, claiming he was "too black". However, they were married in 1948 and had two daughters, Natalie Cole and Caroline. On April 10, 1956, at Birmingham, Alabama, he was attacked by six white men from a white supremacist group called the White Cizizens Council during a concert and sustained minor injuries to his back.
Cole appeared in several movies, his last one being Cat Ballou (1965), starring Lee Marvin. Cole received 28 gold record awards for such hits as "Sweet Lorraine", "Ramblin' Rose" in 1962, "Too Young" in 1951, "Mona Lisa" in 1949 and Mel Tormé's "Christmas Song".
His first recordings of the Christmas Song included the lyrics, "Reindeers really know how to fly" instead of "reindeer really know how to fly", a mistake later corrected by Capitol Records. He was also a composer and his song "Straighten Up and Fly Right" was sold for $50.
00. A heavy smoker, he died of lung cancer.