Nat Cole, Charles Brown rule Xmas

Nathaniel Daniel Coles

Nat King Cole was born Nathaniel Daniel Coles on St. Patrick’s Day 1919 in Montgomery, AL. Died from cancer on 15 Feb 1965. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 as an early influence

The Christmas Song. This tune has one of the most interesting recordings and chart histories in music. It was first recorded in 1946 by the King Cole Trio with four string players, a harpist, and a drummer.
#3 RB for three weeks, #3 pop in 1946. #23 pop in 1947. #8 RB, 24 pop in Jan 1949. #30 pop in Jan 1953.

A new mono version was recorded in 1953 with Nelson Riddle conducting. This is the version that charted most often.
#29 pop in 1954. #80 pop in 1960. #80 pop, #29 Adult Contemporary in 1962. #13 Xmas in 1963 and 1973. #6 Xmas in 1964. #4 Xmas in 1965 and 1967. #5 Xmas in 1966. #2 Xmas in 1968. #1 Xmas in 1969 and 1972. #9 Xmas in 1970. #5 Xmas in 1983. #7 Xmas in 1984. #6 Xmas in 1985.

In 1961, Nat recorded a stereo version with Ralph Carmichael conducting.
#16 Adult Contemporary in 1997.
Nat is #4 of the Christmas in the Charts 1920-2004 artists. Gene Autry is #2, and Bing Crosby, unsurprisingly, is #1.

Not the Peanuts character

#3 is Charles Brown. Born in Texas 13 Sept 1922. Died 21 Jan 1999. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 as an early influence.

Merry Christmas Baby, with Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers. Brown on piano, Moore on guitar, Eddie Williams on bass.
#3 RB in 1947. #8 RB in 1948. #9 RB in 1949. #5 Xmas in 1965. #4 Xmas in 1966 and 1969. #6 Xmas in 1967. #2 Xmas in 1968 and 1973. #8 X,mas in 1970.
Different versions went to #4 Xmas in 1964 and #10 Xmas in 1965; and #2 Xmas in 1973.
Please Come Home for Christmas  – #76 pop in 1961. #108 pop in 1962. #4 Xmas in 1963 and 1969. #3 Xmas in 1964, 1966-1968, and 1970. #2 Xmas in 1965. #1 Xmas in 1972. #9 Xmas in 1973.

And more

This Christmas – Donny Hathaway. #11 Xmas in 1972

White Christmas – The Drifters. #2 RB in 1954. #5 RB, #80 pop in 1955. #12 RB in 1956. #96 pop in 1960. #88 pop in 1962. #17 in 1963 and 1967. #4 in 1964. #13 Xmas in 1965. #14 Xmas in 1967.

The Mistletoe And Me – Isaac Hayes. #8 Xmas in 1969. #5 Xmas in 1973

Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas – The Staple Singers. #2 Xmas in 1973

All I Want For Christmas Is You – Carla Thomas (written by Andrew Charles Williams, Jr., best known for “Oh, Pretty Woman”), #11 Xmas in 1966

That’s What Christmas Means to Me – Stevie Wonder

Nat King Cole Show (1956-57)


nat king cole showThe Nat King Cole Show was the first show to feature a major black star to headline a variety series.

I was too young to remember it. But my parents told me that every black person they knew watched it.

Until recently, I didn’t realize that it was only 15 minutes long when it debuted on a Monday night in November 1956 on NBC-TV. It filled the remaining time allocated to the nightly news. This was barely enough time to sing a few songs. It wasn’t until July 1957, when his slot moved to Tuesdays at 10 that he was allocated a full half hour, which changed to Tuesday at 7:30 in the fall.

The IMBD refers to the Nat King Cole Show as “highly rated.” If by this, it means well-regarded, that would be true. But if it meant big ratings, that is contradicted by most other accounts. The Brooks and Marsh TV book, e.g. said it had only a 19 share when there were only three networks.

No national sponsors

The show originally aired without a sponsor, “but NBC agreed to pay for initial production costs; it was assumed that once the show actually aired and advertisers were able to see its sophistication, a national sponsor would emerge. None did; many national companies did not want to upset their customers in the South, who did not want to see a black man on TV shown in anything other than a subservient position.”

Jim Davidson’s Classic TV Info confirms this. “Had the ratings been higher, national sponsors might have been willing to support the show. But the combination of a relatively small audience and skittishness about viewer reaction kept them away. While crediting NBC with keeping the show on the air, Cole felt advertisers should have had more guts.” Said Cole of the doomed series, “Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark.”

“While NBC was willing to keep the show going, Cole decided to call it quits… He didn’t feel comfortable asking his guest stars to work for practically nothing. ‘You can wear out your welcome,” he commented. “People get tired if you never stop begging.'”

And they were quality guests such as Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Peggy Lee, The Mills Brothers, Pearl Bailey, Count Basie, Harry Belafonte, Billy Eckstine, Mahalia Jackson, Eartha Kitt, Frankie Laine, Tony Martin, Oscar Peterson, Mel Tormé, and a very young Billy Preston.

Still, Nat said in a 1958 Ebony article, “For 13 months, I was the Jackie Robinson of television.” Nat King Cole would have been 101 years old on March 17.

For mom’s birthday: Nat King Cole 78s

I remember when Nat King Cole died in February 1965 from lung cancer.

My mom loved Nat King Cole. Not only did she appreciate his voice, but she thought he was quite handsome. As he was born on St. Patrick’s Day 1919, he was less than nine years older than she was.

I remember being in my maternal grandmother’s second floor and find albums of Nat Cole 78s. And by “albums”, I mean these books that looked like photo albums with paper sleeves holding a single cut on each side of the vinyl.

To my recollection, they weren’t being played anymore. My household, a few blocks away, had moved over to that newish technology, the LP, with a dozen songs playing at 33 RPM, or 45 rpm singles. I don’t recall my grandma having any player at all.

I have no idea what happened to the collection, and since I never HEARD them, I don’t recall the tracks, but it seems that most of them were on Capitol Records.

Here’s a list of Nat King Cole songs on 78s. Absent my mother’s feedback, I guess I’ll link to some of my favorites from the period, with no guarantees that I haven’t snatched a re-recording, rather than the originals; there were quite a lot of them.

Hit That Jive Jack (1942)

Straighten Up And Fly Right (1944)

Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good To You (1944)

Sweet Lorraine (1944)

It’s Only A Paper Moon (1944)

The Frim Fram Sauce (1945)

(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 (1946)

(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons (1946)

The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You) (1946)

Makin’ Whoopee (1947)

I’m Thru With Love (1950) – the year my parents got married

Mona Lisa (1950)

Too Young (1951)

Unforgettable (1951)

Send for Me (1957) – this may exist in both 78 and 45

I remember when he died in February 1965 from lung cancer, his ever-present cigarettes being the cause. My mom didn’t make a big deal of it, as I recall, but I suspected that his passing privately wounded her.

My mom, Trudy Green, who died 2/2/2011, would have been 91 today.

Music: There Will Never Be Another You

The painting in the background with the guitar was by our father.

Marcia, the younger sister, in very many ways, has become the keeper of the flame, not only for the history of the nuclear family in which we grew up back in Binghamton, NY in the 1950s and ’60s, but for the extended tribe as well.

It’s logical. She was the only one who moved to Charlotte, NC with the parents. Leslie and I were already ensconced in college, though of us lived down there for brief periods in the late 1970s.

After my father died in 2000, Mom and Marcia took care of Marcia’s daughter Alex and each other, though as time marched on, Marcia and her daughter were tending more to Mom until she died in 2011.

She still is tending to our parents’ memory, as she has access to decades worth of photos and other material.

As all three of her kids knew, my mom LOVED Nat King Cole. She had a whole bunch of 78s of his, but I have no idea whatever became of them. There were some items in my maternal grandmother’s house, the house my grandma and mom grew up in, and where my sisters and I spent a lot of time. The stuff went into storage and ultimately disappeared long ago, including some photographs of mine.

Marcia was musing about my mother back in November, just before Mom’s birthday. Our mother particularly loved Nature Boy and other familiar tunes by Cole. But neither Marcia nor I had heard him perform There Will Never Be Another You. It’s become one of Marcia’s favorite Nat King Cole songs. And I can hear why.

BTW, neither she nor I ever really learned to play the guitar, though Dad and Leslie did. The painting in the background with the guitar was by our father.

LISTEN to There Will Never Be Another You

Arturo Sandoval

Nat Cole

Doris Day

Happy birthday, Marcia!

Music Throwback Saturday: For Sentimental Reasons

The Nat Cole version started up the charts earliest and charted highest

natkingcole-sentimentalI was looking at the Billboard Top Ten bestsellers charts for January 18, 1947, 70 years ago, and there were not one or two, but FOUR different versions of (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons, the song written in 1945 by Ivory “Deek” Watson, former founding member of The Ink Spots, and William “Pat” Best, a founding member of The Four Tunes. “Best later stated that Watson had nothing to do with the creation of the song, but Watson maintained in his late 1960s autobiography that he and Best wrote the song together, lyrics and music respectively.”

The King Cole Trio Cole first hit the Top 10 on November 30, 1946, with Charlie Spivak (vocals by Jimmy Saunders), Eddy Howard, and Dinah Shore all joining him on the charts nearly two months later. Cole debuted at #8, fell off the charts for a week, and then was #5 for two weeks before dipping to #8 on December 28, right behind his own The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You).

In 1947: Jan 4: #6 Cole. Jan 11: #5 Cole. Jan 18: #4 Cole, #7 Spivak, #8 Howard, #10 Shore. Jan 25: #4 Cole, #6 Howard, #9 Spivak

Feb 1: #3 Cole, #6 Howard, #7 Spivak, #9 Shore. Feb 8: #4 Cole, #6 Shore, #8 Howard, #9 Spivak. Feb 15: #1 Cole, #8 Howard, #9 Shore. Feb 22: #4 Cole.

So the Cole version started up the charts earliest, charted highest (#1), and lasted longest (12 weeks)

But there was an alternate chart during this time that took into account not just sales but radio play and jukeboxes. On THAT chart, Cole was #1 for SIX weeks, Shore was #2 for two weeks, Howard got to #2, and Spivak to #5. Also, Ella Fitzgerald got to #8 and Art Kassel, with vocalist Jimmy Featherstone, to #15, all in the same time frame.

Listen to (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons

Nat King Cole (different recordings) HERE or HERE

Ella Fitzgerald and the Delta Rhythm Boys HERE or HERE

Eddy Howard HERE or HERE

Art Kassel HERE

Dinah Shore HERE or HERE

Charlie Spivak/Jimmy Saunders HERE or HERE

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