Nat King Cole this week, with vocals by Anita O’Day in a session done for C.P. MacGregor on May 26, 1945. From the Radio series syndicated by CP MacGregor; King Cole Court. This was program Number 4.
When Cole made the switch to a decidedly Pop direction later on in his career, beginning in the 1950s during his stint with Capitol and the smash hit Nature Boy, I’m sure it rattled purists the wrong way. Nat King Cole and his trio, consisting of Oscar Moore on guitar and Johnny Miller on bass were one of the really great trios of the Jazz/Swing era, and his early recordings with the group are benchmarks in small-group Jazz. And although he never abandoned his jazz roots, his success as a Popular singer skyrocketed in the 1950s and early 60s, until his death in 1965. But even then, his popularity continued, and he is still considered one of the finest singers in Popular Music of the period.
But this syndicated program was only one of a series of programs Cole did with his trio, starting in the late 1930s. He became one of the first Black performers to cross the color line and radio did a lot to spread his reputation.
This is part of a much larger series of sessions Nat King Cole produced for CP MacGregor, who was an independent recording studio/syndicator at the time. Some of these sessions, particularly at the end of World War 2 overlap with many of the sessions Cole did for Capitol Records and their Transcription Service; sessions recorded specifically for radio performance and not for public sale. Those Capitol sessions have been reissued over the years, as well as many of these CP MacGregor sessions. But Nat King Cole was so prolific and such a regular performer on so many radio shows of the period that it’s almost impossible to track down every one.
For those of you who only know of Nat King Cole by way of either Nature Boy or Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summer, here’s a sampler of what he was really all about.
This session also features the legendary singer Anita O’Day, who got started as a singer for Gene Krupa’s band in 1939, and later as a singer with Stan Kenton‘s band. Ironically, she went from mainstream Swing to become one of the early practitioners of West Coast Cool School Jazz.
Two legends on one bill – can’t ask for better.