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Nat "King" Cole (1919)close

Nathaniel Adams Coles (he later dropped the "s") was the son of a Baptist minister and was born in Montgomery, Alabama. His mother taught him to play the piano, and by age 12, he was playing organ and singing in his father's church. When his family moved to Chicago, he became interested in jazz music and formed the group "Royal Dukes" in 1935. After signing with Capital Records, he became the first black man to top the record charts as an independent vocalist. By the 1950s, his popularity had crossed racial boundaries, and he became the first black man to have a weekly television series--"St. Louis Blues."

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