Ron is a college student of afri American history. His creating highlights the story of civilization who overcame prejudice come achieve great things.

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Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and also a funny old soul was he. But in December the 1957 his namesake, Nat King Cole, to be anything but merry.

Nat to be a superstar singer whose records were marketing in the millions all approximately the world. That stardom had actually landed the his own television selection program, which had actually been broadcast nationwide because that the previous thirteen month on the NBC network. Currently the show had been canceled, leaving Nat disappointed, sad, and also somewhat angry.

A optimal Quality TV present That might Never uncover a sponsor

The program had actually seemed to have all the ingredients vital for success. It had top notch production values, booked the an extremely best musical and selection talent in the land as guests, and in Nat had a hold who was one of the most popular and also personable singers in the world. Yet the one point it did no have, and also was never able to get, was a national sponsor.

A couple of local advertisers signed on to sponsor the regime in their cities. These had Rheingold beer in Hartford, CT and new York City; Coca-Cola in Houston; Regal beer in brand-new Orleans; and Gallo wine and also Colgate toothpaste in Los Angeles. Yet no sponsors to be ever found who where willing come associate your brand v the present on a national basis.

Nat Cole felt the knew precisely why the was. He was an african American man starring in his very own show, not in a subservient or obsequious role à la “Amos and Andy,” yet as the host, the equal of every the good talents, black and white, who showed up on the program. And to many potential advertisers, fearful about how their sales in the South could be impacted, that was reason sufficient to prevent the show.


Not unnaturally, Nat had believed that his stature together an global celebrity, and also the acceptability he had actually demonstrated in his numerous appearances on various other shows, would certainly be sufficient to overcome the “whites only” legacies of network TV. By the moment the Nat King Cole display went top top the wait in November the 1956, Nat to be a family name roughly the world, and also wildly famous as a singer throughout the nation.

From Jazz Pianist to Million-Selling Singer

Born in Montgomery, Alabama on in march 17, 1919, Nathaniel Adams Coles to be the child of a Baptist pastor. The started learning to pat the piano in ~ the period of 4, taught by his mother, the choir director in ~ his father’s first Baptist Church.

Nat conveniently revealed an especially talent top top the keyboard. He was so an excellent that that left college at the period of 15 to end up being a expert jazz pianist. In 1939 he created the King Cole Trio, and also earned vast fame as a jazz piano virtuoso. In 1943 Nat turned among his father’s sermons right into the trio’s first hit record, “Straighten Up and also Fly Right.” Then, in 1946, the trio recorded what has end up being one that the most beloved Christmas song of every time. Appropriately titled “The Christmas Song," the song is popularly recognized by its an initial line, "Chestnuts Roasting on an open up Fire."

It is this song, i beg your pardon Nat recorded four separate times, that significant his shift from being recognized primarily as a jazz pianist to coming to be perhaps the smoothest, many velvet-voiced popular singer of all time. After record it with his trio in 1946, later on that year the made a second recording, but this time v strings added. It came to be a huge hit. Additional recordings of that arrangement followed, in 1953 and also 1961. The last version, taped in stereo, is the one you now hear every Christmas season.


By the mid 1950s Nat King Cole was a global superstar as result of a wire of hits, such together "Mona Lisa," "Nature Boy," "(Get your Kicks On) path 66," and "Unforgettable." He was a frequent guest star top top a variety of TV selection programs the the time, consisting of "The Ed Sullivan Show," “The Jackie Gleason Show,” “The Red Skelton Hour,” “Cavalcade of Stars,” and “The Milton Berle Show.”

With his an extremely positive agree on these shows, through 1954 the seemed organic to provide Nat King Cole a present of his own. CBS signed him the year to ten guest appearances on various other programs, offering rise come rumors the the network to be preparing the ground because that Nat to have actually his own program. But somehow the CBS show never materialized. It was NBC that finally determined to take the plunge in 1956.

The Nat King Cole show Goes on the Air

“The Nat King Cole Show” premiered ~ above NBC ~ above November 5, 1956. At first it was a 15-minute regime broadcast ~ above Mondays from 7:30 come 7:45 pm. The was a prime timeslot, indicating the NBC had actually high wishes for the show. But there was a major problem native the an extremely beginning. As soon as that an initial broadcast the Nat’s present hit the airwaves, the did so without any kind of sponsor. The is a measure of NBC’s commitment to making the show succeed the they to be willing to eat the expenses of those initial broadcasts in the expectation that as soon as potential sponsors saw the high quality of the shows, castle would eventually get ~ above board.

And the shows were that high quality. Very first of all, there was Nat himself. Suave and sophisticated, he brought out his hosting duties with aplomb. And also as a singer he to be at the really top of his career.

The guests that lined increase to show up with the on the show were the cream the the to chat crop: Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, count Basie, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., harry Belafonte, Johnny Mercer, Mel Torme, Mahalia Jackson, Robert Mitchum, Pearl Bailey, and also Julius LaRosa, among others. As the sponsorship drought continued, numerous of these good stars appeared for the union minimum since of their dedication to see the display succeed.

Nat Sings "Unforgettable" top top His Show

A High Quality present Gets even Better

NBC was just as dedicated. In the absence of a nationwide sponsor, they were able to cobble with each other a team of around 30 regional advertisers who noted some revenue. When the early ratings for the show were mediocre, instead of backing away, NBC actually enhanced it indigenous a 15-minute come a half hour broadcast, and also gave the a bigger production budget plan to lug it come an even higher level the excellence.

And these improvements bore fruit. Ratings enhanced to the suggest where they were regularly on par with, and also sometimes front of, the competition. Throughout the summer of 1957, the show was the top rated routine in new York City.


Start DateEnd DateDay and Time

November 1956

June 1957

Monday 7:30-7:45 pm

June 1957

September 1957

Tuesday 10:00-10:30 pm

September 1957

December 1957

Tuesday 7:30-8:00 pm

The affect of gyeongju Prejudice

Nat and also his manufacturing team to be committed to removing every obstacle they could to the show’s acceptance. Well conscious of the prevailing gyeongju prejudices of the time, Nat was very careful about how he connected with his guest stars – particularly white females.

As is typical in show business, Nat was offered to exchanging hugs and also kisses with various other performers. However on the Nat King Cole tv show, you never ever saw the star also touch a white woman. When he would certainly sing a duet v a Peggy Lee, because that example, over there would typically be a stool or chair or some various other physical object between them, a obstacle not to it is in crossed.

As ludicrous because of this precautions might seem today, lock were reputed absolutely essential at the time. In 1955, just a year before Nat’s regimen went top top the air, 14-year old Emmet Till, a youngster from Chicago that didn’t understand the utter viciousness of gyeongju hatred, was murdered in Mississippi for just speaking to a white woman. And in April of the very year his TV program started its run, Nat himself, performing in an incorporated show, to be injured when he was assaulted on stage in Birmingham, Alabama by members that the White citizens Council. He never ever again played a to meet in the South.

So, Nat King Cole was well aware of the tightrope he had actually to to walk on his show. In a February 1958 post in Ebony magazine, Nat shared just how he approached this realities:

"We proved that a black star can play host to whites, including women, and we verified it in such good taste that no one to be offended… i didn't bending over backwards, however I didn't go out of my means to violation anyone."

Advertisers remain Unimpressed

None the this made any type of difference to declaring agencies terrified of southern reaction to a black male hosting his very own television show, and also being presented as same to whites in the process. Even though no one of the 30 neighborhood sponsors ever reported any kind of problems, trepidation among the proclaiming executives the Madison Avenue preserved them from even attempting to persuade their clients to sponsor the show. A representative the Max factor cosmetics supposedly said that a negro couldn't offer lipstick because that them. The show business newspaper, Variety, reported the "At one major agency the word has actually gone out: 'No negro performers allowed.'"

These were the civilization Nat King Cole blamed for the i can not qualify of his present to ever uncover a sponsor. That would later famously, and somewhat bitterly, to speak of them, "Madison path is afraid of the dark."

The Jackie Robinson the Television

Part of Nat’s bitterness in ~ the advertisement men’s timidity arose because he was well mindful of the prominence of his history-making effort. In his Ebony magazine article, which was entitled "Why ns Quit mine TV Show," he speak of just how he regarded the significance of his pioneering program.

"For 13 months ns was the Jackie Robinson that television. Ns was the pioneer, the test case, the black first. I didn't setup it that way, yet it was apparent to anyone through eyes to check out that i was the only Negro ~ above network tv with his very own show. On my present rode the hopes and also tears and dreams of countless people... When a week because that 64 consecutive main I went to bat because that these people. Ns sacrificed and also drove myself. I plowed part of mine salary back into the show. I turned under $500,000 in dates in stimulate to it is in on the scene. I did whatever I can to make the show a success. And what happened? ~ a trailblazing year the shattered all the old bugaboos around Negroes on TV, I found myself standing there through the bat on mine shoulder. The males who dictate what american see and also hear didn't want to pat ball."

He walk on to keep in mind that:

"When us went ~ above the air critical summer, two huge companies to be on the verge that buying. But, in ~ the critical moment, somebody said, 'No, us won't take it a chance.' Two various other sponsors turned us down cold. Ns won't call their names, but they were big, really big. They turned us down and also then lost money on inferior shows."

Decades later, Nat’s widow speak of his disappointment at his show’s i can not qualify to find a sponsor. "He really thought he could adjust things," Maria Cole said. "He just really assumed the show was walk to readjust things."


The Nat King Cole display Is Canceled – by Nat King Cole

Nat never blamed NBC because that the death of his show. For that network he had actually only words of praise. "The network supported this display from the beginning," that said. "From Mr. Sarnoff on down, castle tried to sell it come agencies. They can have dropped it after the an initial thirteen weeks."

Neither did Nat ever blame viewers, not even those in the South. His ire was scheduled for what he thought about to it is in gutless advertising executives. "After all,” the said, “Madison path is in the North."

Ironically, it to be Nat himself that pulled the plug top top his show. V the continuing lack of national sponsorship, NBC got to a allude where it might no much longer keep the display in its prime time slot. They to be willing to proceed with the program, but when the Singer Sewing an equipment Company wanted that time for an adult western dubbed "The Californians" (you remember that program, don’t you?), the network feeling they had actually to relocate Nat’s show to a less prominent spot on their schedule. They available to put it on at 7:00 pm on Saturdays, a much less preferable time. Nat said, no.

"It was difficult for him, very hard," Maria Cole recalls. "He said 'No, ns can't do it anymore. Ns won't carry out it.'"

The last illustration of The Nat King Cole display was transfer on December 17, 1957.

Nat King Cole Hosting a 1963 BBC-TV Show

Was It precious It?

A many of people sacrificed a lot in the attempt to do The Nat King Cole show a success. Walk its cancellation signal the their initiatives had remained in vain? no at all. Today, the show is commemorated as a pioneer that opened up the door for later African American entertainers top top network television. Nat King Cole in 1956-57 paved the method for flip Wilson in 1970, who came to be the an initial African American to host a network TV display that was an unqualified hit.

And the Cole show itself has never been forgotten. Maria Cole, recognizing not just the show’s location in history, but also the high quality of the program themselves, kept kinescope recordings the the broadcasts. (Kinescope technology, in the days before video tape, taped television program by filming them turn off a TV monitor). These have actually now to be digitally remastered, and made easily accessible on Apple’s iTunes.

Nat King Cole passed away of neck cancer in 1965 at the age of 45. But his legacy, not only as a singer, however as a pioneer for racial justice and reconciliation, stays on.

© 2013 Ronald E Franklin


~ above September 21, 2019:

e to be absolutely wonderful. A an excellent show, great guests. And it to be NAT KING COLE. Ns voice for the decades!!!

Thanks because that the write-up it was eye-opening. I'm a younger on in march 09, 2019:

Thanks because that the post it was eye-opening. Mine grandma and I walked as much as the theater and also saw Nat King Cole in the movie Cat Ballou he was fabulous and also that's mine remembrance the Nat King Cole at my early age

Gullagal on in march 05, 2019:

Thank you because that this good article. I always loved the means Mr. Cole sang. I assume his show, like Black movies, was no aired in the South? It would certainly not surprised me, provided the despicable bigoted times.

Great work!

Derek Nudd & invoice Graham, Birkenhead UK ~ above January 31, 2019:

Thanks because that your detailed information bordering Nat King Cole’s TV show and also the battle he had actually to endure.

We are watching a dvd that “An evening with Nat King Cole” which was initially broadcast by the BBC in 1961 which is 47 minutes long, an excellent quality, considering it’s age, packed full of Nat’s an excellent songs and well worth seeking out.

What a talented man!

Edward Zyjewski on December 24, 2018:

Thanks so lot for posting this articlw. I recall city hall the show, and learned the story year later. Perfect characterization, "the Jackie Robinson of TV".

Ronald E Franklin (author) indigenous Mechanicsburg, PA on June 24, 2015:

Thanks, Kristen. I think Nat was a genuine pioneer, and also paid a pioneer's price through his show. The shouldn't it is in forgotten.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio top top June 24, 2015:

This was another one that your interesting hub Ron. Thanks for sharing v us about Nat King Cole's struggle with his TV show. Poll up!

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA top top January 17, 2014:

Thanks for reading, trusouldj. Ns remember seeing reruns a few years ago, but I'm not sure if any kind of are showing on TV now. There room a couple of on YouTube, choose the ones consisted of in this article.

trusouldj on January 17, 2014:

I would certainly love to view this show. They supplied to wait reruns top top the previous BET Jazz channel.

Ronald E Franklin (author) indigenous Mechanicsburg, PA on November 06, 2013:

Thanks, Ann810. Yes, times certainly have changed; and also Nat Cole had actually a many to execute with those changes. That led the way.Today's entertainers fan him a big debt of gratitude.

Ann810 from sunny Cali ~ above November 06, 2013:

Cool article, ns didn't recognize Nat king Cole had actually a speak show. And also it's strange Mr. Nat King Cole couldn't acquire sponsors top top a national basis. This days the sponsors are chasing Black males down to give them advertisement sponsors.

Ronald E Franklin (author) native Mechanicsburg, PA top top September 30, 2013:

Thanks, sybol. Have you checked out Natalie's "duet" with her father to sing "Unforgettable" (with the on video)? she admiration for she dad is evident. It was a big hit, and perhaps aided introduce Nat come a brand-new generation the wasn't approximately when he was turning out hit after hit.

sybol on September 30, 2013:

This is a really infomative article. I was born in 1955 and did no watch his show however he and Natalie Cole room two that my favourite singers. I did not know around his struggles in television. I remember fine seeing the on tv on different shows. This short article is worth sharing and also I am going come share.


Ronald E Franklin (author) indigenous Mechanicsburg, PA on September 30, 2013:

Christian107: Amen!

Christian107 on September 29, 2013:

At this minute we will just wait for God to carry out an actor who can sing choose Nat Cole and one the look comparable like that :D

Ronald E Franklin (author) indigenous Mechanicsburg, PA ~ above September 29, 2013:

Thanks, christian107. Ns really hope you obtain the possibility to make the movie! The just problem could be: who can you gain to beat Nat who can sing everywhere near the method he could?

Christian indigenous Lancaster, PA on September 29, 2013:

Because of him, us now have actually the revived Arsenio room show, The Steve Harvey show on daytime, Montel Williams, Oprah, Wayne Brady, and many more will come. With God's guidance, ns am pursuing a job in the entertainment industry as one actor and filmmaker, and if and when I obtain a chance, I'm gonna make a movie based on this piece of history

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA top top September 27, 2013:

Thanks again, cmoneyspinner1tf.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA ~ above September 27, 2013:

Thanks, heidithorne. Personally, ns think Nat's voice is the closest come perfection I've ever before heard.

Treathyl FOX indigenous Austin, Texas top top September 27, 2013:

RonElFran - Yo bro! It would certainly be good if gambling did something come uplift and shine the spotight ~ above a the majority of folks prefer Mr. Cole who sustained a totality lot and also broke under doors therefore others could walk through! How quickly we forget? Or how conveniently really real an excellent stuff gets hidden under lots of crap!! Yeah! You recognize what I'm talking about! good HUB!

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on September 27, 2013:

Certainly wouldn't it is in the very same scenario today! Advertisers would be flocking come participate. Nat had an remarkable voice that is timeless. (Love NAS' recent rendition that Unforgettable.) thanks for sharing this slice of television and advertising history!

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 27, 2013:

Thanks for commenting, cmoneyspinner1tf. It would be an excellent if gambling did something special to honor Nat's pioneering efforts.

Ronald E Franklin (author) native Mechanicsburg, PA on September 27, 2013:

Thanks, MsDora. Ns think we regularly forget (or never knew) what it cost the pioneers that by your sweat, pain and also sacrifice do it simpler for those that follow. Nat's story is certainly one that shouldn't it is in forgotten.

See more: Green And Yellow Mixed! What Does Yellow And Green Make When Mixed Together

Treathyl FOX indigenous Austin, Texas top top September 27, 2013:

So choose ... Have you mailed this article to the owner of BET??

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 27, 2013:

A large 'thank you' to Nat King Cole for persevering as soon as he must not have had actually to struggle to lug the human being such a beautiful gift the his impressive voice. One equal huge "thank you" to you Ron, because that sharing his motivating story.