Nat King Cole was born in Montgomery, Alabama, on March 17, 1919. He was born Nathaniel Adams Coles, the son of Edward Coles, a Baptist minister, and Perlina Coles, a church organist.
His mother introduced him to music at a young age and he eventually excelled in jazz, gospel and western classical styles of music. He adopted the stage name “Nat Cole” and earned the nickname “King” while playing in jazz clubs in the 1930s.
Cole was the first African-American to host his own show on a major network. The Nat King Cole Show debuted in November 1956 on NBC and aired until December 1957. He also appeared in a variety of television shows and movies.
A longtime smoker, Cole was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1964 and died in 1965. He was 45 years old.