Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Nathaniel Adams Coles was born in Montgomery, Alabama on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1919. His family moved to Chicago while his father took a job as a Baptist minister. This is where Nat learned how to learn the organ. Learning the organ from his mother helped train him to become one of the leading pianists in the jazz profession. Many say that he owes most of his popular musical frame to his soft baritone voice. He was the first black American to host a television variety show and to his credit this show has maintained worldwide popularity over the last 40 years.
Nat King Cole was a pioneer in television in his own right but the transition from an African American man to a celebrity did not come at an easy cost. “I was the pioneer, the test case, the Negro first. I didn’t plan it that way, but it was obvious to anyone with eyes to see that I was the only Negro on network television with his own show.” Just imagine how amazing he is, he was the equalivant to Jackie Robinson of television. Without him, who knows if Oprah would be the richest woman in the world? He paved the way for the African American race and for that he should be praised daily. The amount of stress must have been enormous. To carry his own race on his back for equality on the airwaves is astonishing to me. He represented the Black community and showed them that they too could also make it if they put the effort in.
Being a pioneer in television did not come easy but with hard work and determination Nat King Cole made it look easy. On November 5, 1956 “The Nat King Cole Show” debuted on NBC-TV. However, It initially began as a 15 minute show that aired on Monday nights. But with the public demand at a all time high the program was extended to a half an hour in July 1957. What makes this an amazing story is that he did not have any national sponsorship. “Negros in Chicago watched and waited. Will he get a sponsor? Big Tycoons watched and worried.” I believe that the robber barons or big tycoons did not want this show to be a big success but they could not stop Nat King Cole in his attempt to do something that has never been done before. “Once a week, for 64 consecutive weeks, I went to bat for these people.” Because of the lack of corporate sponsors he took part of his salary back in the show in order to help with expenses. But nonetheless he decided to leave NBC and move on with other business opportunities. When asked why he left, he responded that “NBC turned down my request for a larger Budget. I had asked for an additional 5,000 a week.” Asking for more money was not to make his own pockets larger but to make the show a bigger hit.
I think that Nat King Cole in his own right was a major pioneer in his own right and should get the credit he truly deserves. He fought for sponsorships that he truly deserved but never really received. Again without him television might not be what it is today and for that I thank you Nat King Cole.


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