Nat King Cole : part three (1957-1965)©2006JCMarion


Nat Cole recorded "Ballerina" in 1957 and it was an interesting take on a song that had been a huge hit for Vaughn Monroe some years before. The record on # 3619 was a top twenty seller. In March Capitol released an LP called "After Midnight" on # 782, a group of records with the newly reorganized King Cole Trio. The next month the LP "Love Is The Thing" was released on # 824, and it turned out to be a huge hit and the top LP seller for Capitol Records up to that time. It was the number one seller for two months and remained a best selling album for well over a year. In June, Cole's TV show on NBC ended with the network looking to revamp the program. During the summer Cole showed that he still could produce with his biggest hit in two years called "Send For Me" with The Four Knights. The Cole version was his closest sound to the R & B style but still kept the trademark vocalizing, and the listening public responded by giving the record an almost five month ride on the hit charts and a top five listing. The flip side called "My Personal Possession" on # 3737 (also with The Four Knights) also briefly hit the charts. During the year Cole had a part in an Errol Flynn picture called "Istanbul" where he played a character named Danny Rice. In September NBC expanded Cole's show to thirty minutes on Tuesday evenings but it only lasted through December. Cole had one last chart hit during the year in late October on Capitol # 3782 called "With You On My Mind". Late in the year of 1957 Capitol released two more LP albums by Nat Cole that did well. "This Is Nat 'King' Cole" on # 870, and "Just One Of Those Things" on # 903 both were top twenty sellers on the album charts. Another small part in a motion picture had Cole playing the character Goldie in "China Gate".

In 1958 Nat recorded an easy rocking tune called "Angel Smile" on #3860 that was a minor hit, but that was followed up by a poignant ballad tune "Looking Back" that was a solid hit record for Capitol on #3939. A four month best seller that got into the top five nationally, Cole continued to deliver even as his recording direction was moving toward album sales and what would soon be called "easy listening" (meaning non-rock music). During the summer "Come Closer To Me" was a minor hit on # 4004. In the year of 1958 Nat Cole was given a starring role in a major motion picture - "St. Louis Blues" in which he portrayed composer W.C. Handy. Along with Nat also in the cast was Ruby Dee, Mahalia Jackson, Eartha Kitt, Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey, Cab Calloway, and a young Billy Preston. The film reviews were poor as was the film's box office, but the sound track album (on Capitol #993)was successful. Two other albums recorded during the year did well - "Cole Espanol" sung in Spanish on # 1031, and "The Very Thought Of You" on # 1084.

Cole appeared in the motion picture "Night Of The Quarter Moon" as a character named Cy Robbins. Much of 1959 and part of the following year were spent with Cole developing a Broadway musical. He had formed his own entertainment management company (originally with Harry Belafonte) and later on his own, with a heavy financial interest in this effort. He had recorded an album in early 1960 called "Tell Me About Yourself" on # 1331 that was a moderate seller. Now he went back into the recording studio armed with a number of songs for a concept album that was to be the basis of his stage show. The title was "Wild Is Love" with arrangements by Nelson Riddle. The LP was a big success, the biggest seller in three years. It was on the top selling album charts for six months and topped out at number five. The show built around the music was not so successful however. The script was constantly being rewritten and the name was changed to "I'm With You". It was a consistent money loser and soon Cole was forced to pull the plug on that venture. . Nat was featured in a TV special called "A Cool Evening With Nat King Cole". His only single to chart in 1960 was a forgettable tune called "Time And The River" on # 4325 that charted briefly.

During 1961 Nat Cole did not have chart success on either the singles or album charts while he was involved in the "Wild Is Love" / "I'm With You" project. He did record a promotional record that is interesting - "Good Night Little Leaguer" / "The First Baseball Game". In 1962 Cole had been a top flight entertainer for a quarter of a century, and a top musical act since the post war forties. The rock 'n roll juggernaut had taken over the pop music field and its teenaged listeners defined the direction that record labels would follow. His label Capitol had been sold to a global conglomerate (EMI), and they looked to strengthen their stake in the young market. Both Sinatra and Dean martin had left the label as Capitol moved to get "younger". Where did that leave nat Cole ? The summer of that year had an answer. "Ramblin' Rose" on Capitol # 4804 was released featuring Cole on what originally seemed like a hodge podge of styles blended together to produce a nostalgic sing-a-long tune with a country & western feel. All this in the middle of Motown, Four Seasons, Soul, car and surf music, and something brewing in England. People heard the record which got airplay only because of Cole's history as a top vocalist for many years. Before (the "new") Capitol Records could decide what to do with this oddball, the listeners decided for them. Requests and sales were the result - sales in huge numbers. As the so called taste makers scratched their heads in puzzlement, Nat Cole had another multi-million seller out there. It wasn't only middle America either. Every top 40 radio station featured the tune and only Neil Sedaka ("Breaking Up Is Hard To Do") and Little Eva ("The Locomotion") kept it out of the number one spot in the country. Nat probably gave out with a big "So there !" after the song's run. An LP recorded with George Shearing on # 1675 also did well that year, and late in 1962 an album called "Ramblin' Rose" featuring the song was a huge seller (# 1793) remaining for more than a year on the album charts and getting as high as third in sales across the country. And - he wasn't done yet for the year. "Dear Lonely Hearts" / "Who's Next In Line" on # 4870 was a good seller that carried on into the next year.

Cole and Capitol created an album built around his last hit single, and so "Dear Lonely Hearts" did well on the album charts during the spring of 1963. That summer Cole confounded the experts one more time. Another harmless and unadventurous tune was released by Nat Cole on Capitol # 4965 called "Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days Of Summer". It turned out to be what the listening public wanted to hear at that time. A top five smash and eventual million seller, it became the anthem of the season and has since remained a staple of summertime. The inevitable album built around the hit single followed on # 1932 and it was a winner once again. Another seasonal influence was released in September called "That Sunday, That Summer" on # 5027, and it too was a hit for Cole. It was a best seller on the charts for more than two months and hit as high as number twelve in the country. In late November the country was stunned by the assassination of President Kennedy. Over the following weeks the country looked for a diversion to recover from that tragedy. It found it in a quartet of rock musicians with odd haircuts who hailed from Liverpool, England. Capitol Records came to their senses and quickly secured the American recording rights to the group and now they were the label of the Beatles. Where did that leave Nat Cole who had for the last decade and a half put the label on the music map ? Two moderate selling singles "I Don't Want To Be Hurt Anymore" on # 5155 (top twenty), and "I Don't Want To See Her Tomorrow" on # 5261 were his two chart hits for the year. The album featuring containing "I Don't Want To Hurt Anymore" was a decent seller. Nat also filmed his role in a wacky comedy film called "Cat Ballou" playing a musical troubadour as a kind of narrator for the film. But now there were events occurring that would have tragic consequences for Nat Cole, his life and his career.

In late 1964 his marriage to Maria was becoming unglued, helped along by Cole's relationship with a young performer who was a part of his musical variety revue called "Sights And Sounds" which Cole had taken out on the road in limited production for the past three years. On top of that stress he began to have health problems which he went to great lengths to conceal from friends and family. When his health began to seriously deteriorate, he was hospitalized and the resulting news from tests was grim. Years of a three packs a day smoking habit had taken its toll, and Nat had an advanced case of lung cancer. The world found out about the true nature of the precarious condition of Cole, and on February 15, 1965 Nat Cole passed away in Los Angeles. He was only forty seven years old. Shortly after his death Capitol released an LP album called "L-O-V-E" on # 2195 which turned out to be one of his biggest LP sellers, and it was followed by a re-release of the 1953 album "Unforgettable" on # 357. As in the case of so many musical performers, their legacy of recorded works lives on and salutes the memory of many great moments in different ways that relate to each individual's life. When hearing a song again, it will take you back to a time and a place, and unleash a flood of happy memories. Such is the effect of an artist such as Nat Cole, who for so many years then, and continuing on today, certainly was a "King".

Nat Cole's remaining legacy of his music is extensive and varied as befitting a man of his many talents. There are a great many "greatest hits" packages in various forms that are available. The starting point is probably called simply "The Greatest Hits" for Capitol. It features the top sellers over the years concentrating on his pop ballads and hit parade standouts. For a more completist outlook there is "Stardust : The Complete Capitol Recordings 1955-1959" from Bear Family (Germany), and the rare limited edition "Complete Capitol Recordings" for Capitol that because of its extreme rarity fetches a very pricey amount. Other CDs of interest : Two volumes from Capitol "Best Of . . . . Vocal Classics Vol 1 : 1942-46" and "Vol 2 : 1947-50". A unique recording from Capitol is "King Cole Trio : Live At The Circle Room" which is a recorded set by the trio at a Milwaukee night club back in 1944. Finally there are three CDs from Blue Note that are of special interest. "King Cole Trio : Instrumental Classics", "Nat Cole : The Transcriptions" a three disc 71 tracks of radio air checks, and "Live At The Sands" recorded with the Billy May Orchestra in 1960. Many other recordings capture different times and different styles from the wonderful career of one of this country's most talented musicians to ever set foot on stage or in a recording studio. One thing is clear : no matter what selection you might listen to, if you have even the most elementary appreciation of musical genius, you will be transfixed by the immense talent of this giant of America.

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