The Nat King Cole Show
1956-57

By Jim Davidson
Posted 7/2005
Updated 3/28/2011

 



As this newspaper ad proves, The Nat King Cole Show did have a sponsor, if only a local one.

"For 13 months, I was the Jackie Robinson of television," wrote Nat King Cole in a revealing 1958 article for Ebony magazine. "After a trail-blazing year that shattered all the old bug-a-boos about Negroes on TV, I found myself standing there with the bat on my shoulder. The men who dictate what Americans see and hear didn't want to play ball."

The conventional wisdom about The Nat King Cole Show is that it was the first network TV program hosted by an African American, that NBC cancelled it after it failed to attract a sponsor, and that potential advertisers were reluctant to sign on for fear that their products would be boycotted by disgruntled Southerners. While based in fact, none of these statements is exactly true.

At the time of his show's premiere, Nat Cole was not merely one of the highest paid black people in America but one of the most successful entertainers in the world, period. His gentle, romantic style of singing endeared him to millions, and his record sales were phenomenal. There was every reason to believe that a TV show starring Nat King Cole would be a huge hit.

There was just one slight problem: with legal segregation still in full force in the South and de facto segregation in much of the rest of the country, TV was, with few exceptions, the exclusive domain of white people. The rare television images of African Americans tended to be dumb stereotypes like those seen on Amos 'n Andy and Beulah. Even if some in the industry might have been inclined to allow blacks to present themselves as intelligent and sophisticated, there was no telling how the audience might react.

Black hosts had been tried before. Hazel Scott (in 1950) and Billy Daniels (in 1952) had each starred in a short-lived and quickly forgotten variety show. But Cole's program was the first hosted by a star of his magnitude, and expectations were high.

It was obvious that, if Nat were successful, it would open a lot of doors for other African American entertainers. There was a whole host of big stars, both black and white, who wanted to help and were willing to appear on the show for union scale. But despite the stars and the show's high entertainment value, decent ratings failed to materialize.

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. "When we went on the air last summer," he wrote, "two big companies were on the verge of buying. But, at the last moment, somebody said, 'No, we won't take a chance.' Two other sponsors turned us down cold. I won't call their names, but they were big, very big. They turned us down and then lost money on inferior shows."

Carter products, makers of Arrid deodorant and Rise shaving cream, backed the show for a short time but soon pulled out. In the absence of a national sponsor, NBC put together a patchwork of local ones, including Rheingold Beer in New York, Gallo and Thunderbird Wines in Los Angeles, Regal Beer in New Orleans, and Coca Cola in Houston. But despite a major push, Cole and NBC just couldn't dispel the notion among big advertisers that viewers would object to seeing blacks and whites on an equal footing and that it would hurt the companies' sales - despite the fact that none of the local sponsors had had a problem. "Madison Avenue [is] the center of the advertising industry," Cole wrote, "and their big clients didn't want their products associated with Negroes…Ad Alley thinks it's still a white man's world."

It seems silly today, but Cole had to be careful how he related to his guest stars. In the best show biz tradition, he liked getting physical with his pals, often putting a friendly arm around them. But he was mindful never to touch the white women on the show. It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that in some parts of the country, even at that late date, that would have been a lynching offense. Remember, it had been just two years since the murder of Emmett Till.


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If you're a fan of Nat's singing (and who isn't?), make sure you check out my Nat King Cole Discography.

That Cole was aware of the situation is evident in this carefully worded statement: "We proved that a Negro star could play host to whites, including women, and we proved it in such good taste that no one was offended…I didn't bend over backwards, but I didn't go out of my way to offend anyone." (Black women were another story. His flirting with Eartha Kitt on the October 8, 1957 telecast got so steamy that, at the close of the show, he felt the need to speak directly to his wife, assuring her it was all in good fun.)

Despite the controversy behind the scenes, there was little evidence of it on the show itself. Viewers simply saw and heard some of the best entertainment television had to offer. Reviewing the premiere, Variety foresaw "many pleasant quarter-hours to come" and mentioned "the topgrade quality that's going into the series." The New York Times called the show "a refreshing musical diversion" with a host possessing "an amiable personality that comes across engagingly on the television screen."

While NBC was willing to keep the show going, Cole decided to call it quits after fourteen months on the air. Two factors influenced his decision. First, the network wanted to move the show from Tuesdays at 7:30 to Saturdays at 7:00. Nat felt the move wouldn't help his ratings, since in some areas, the program would air at 6:00 or even 5:00. The other reason was that 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."

When the show folded, Cole and NBC expressed some optimism about reviving it if a national sponsor could be found, but that never happened. The next African American to try hosting a program was Sammy Davis Jr. in 1966, but low ratings forced him off the air after less than four months. It wasn't until The Flip Wilson Show came along in 1970 that a variety show hosted by a black entertainer became an unqualified success.

But Nat King Cole was the trail blazer. "I was the pioneer, the test case, the Negro first," he wrote. "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. On my show rode the hopes and fears and dreams of millions of people." It was a dream deferred, but one that eventually came true.



The Episodes

 

Sources: TV listings in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, TV Guide (Northern California Edition), Variety, Nat King Cole Shows Vol. 1-3 (Portuguese CD import), the J. David Goldin's GOLDINdex database, and the episodes themselves. I've also consulted the article Cole wrote (with Lerone Bennett Jr.) for the February 1958 issue of Ebony magazine, the interview with Cole in the September 7, 1957 issue of TV Guide, and the discography in the back of the Cole biography by James Haskins with Kathleen Benson (Stein and Day, 1984). I'm grateful to Jerry Grefenstette for the information and copies of episodes he provided and to Gary Helton, station manager of WHFC-FM in Bel Air, MD, for correctly identifying the bass player in the 11/12/1957 episode.

The Nat King Cole Show
Producer-Director: Jim Jordan, Bob Henry
Executive Producer: Carlos Gastel (Nat's manager)
Vocal Group: The Boataneers, The Eddie Beale Singers, The Herman McCoy Singers, The Randy Van Horne Singers, The Jerry Graff Singers, The Cheerleaders
Instrumental Accompaniment: Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra, Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Theme Song: "Shadow Waltz"
Closing Theme: "It's Just About That Time Again" (from 11/5/1957 on)

 


15-Minute Episodes (Monday 7:30-7:45 pm)
In the mid-1950s, 15-minute TV shows weren't unusual. Networks usually split an early-evening half hour into two halves - one for news and the other for an entertainment show. In NBC's case, during the 1956-57 season, the 7:45-8:00 pm slot was filled by popular newsmen Huntley and Brinkley, while at 7:30-7:45, viewers saw Eddie Fisher on Wednesday and Friday, Jonathan Winters on Tuesday, Dinah Shore on Thursday, and Nat King Cole on Monday.

Information on these 15-minute Cole episodes is somewhat sketchy, as I don't have copies of many of them. Because the shows were so short and rarely had guest stars, TV listings in newspapers and TV Guide usually didn't provide much information. In some cases, I have airdates but no data; in others, I have data but can't pinpoint the dates. What follows is the best I can do for now, until more details become available.

Series
#

Season
#

Airdate

Guests, Regulars, and Songs

001

1-01

11/5/1956

The Boataneers (4 men, 1 woman), Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra
Songs: "Somebody Loves Me," "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face" (Nat), "Tea For Two" (Nat vocal/piano and Boataneers), Memory Song: "Unforgettable" (Nat)
Note: Nat was appearing at the famous Copacabana in New York, so his first half dozen shows originated from that city. This episode didn't air in Los Angeles.

002

1-02

11/12/1956

The Boataneers, Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra
Songs: "This Can't Be Love" (Nat), "The End of a Beautiful Friendship" (Nat and Boataneers), "C-U-B-A," Memory Song: "Mona Lisa" (Nat)

003

1-03

11/19/1956

The Boataneers, Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra
Songs: "Thou Swell," "Night Lights," (Nat) "Two Different Worlds" (Nat and Boataneers), "It's Only a Paper Moon" (Nat vocal/piano and his combo), Memory Song: "Early American" (Nat)

004

1-04

11/26/1956

The Boataneers, Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra
Announcer: Bill Hanrahan
Songs: "To the Ends of the Earth" (Nat and Boataneers), "My Foolish Heart" (Nat), "Sweet Sue, Just You" (Nat and Boataneers), "Stella By Starlight" (Nat on piano), "Love Letters" (Nat and Boataneers), "Street of Dreams" (Jenkins Orchestra)
Note: Nat does a mostly Victor Young program, in tribute to the songwriter who passed away 16 days earlier.

005

1-05

12/3/1956

The Boataneers, Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra
Songs: "I'm Shooting High," "Autumn Leaves" (Nat), "Just One Of Those Things" (Nat on piano), Memory Song: "There Goes My Heart" (Nat)

006

1-06

12/10/1956

Unidentified vocal group, Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra
Songs: "Little Girl," Medley: "Repeat After Me"/"True Love" (Nat and vocal group), "Too Marvelous For Words" (Nat vocal/piano and his combo), Memory Song: "Too Young" (Nat)

007

1-07

12/17/1956

The Eddie Beale Singers, Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "When You're Smiling," (Nat and Beale Singers), "Night Lights" (Nat), "Take Me Back to Toyland," (Nat and Beale Singers), "Just in Time," Memory Song: "Somewhere Along the Way" (Nat)
Note: With this episode, airing in color, Nat moved his show from New York to Hollywood.

008

1-08

12/24/1956

Unidentified vocal group, Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," "A House With Love In It," "Mrs. Santa Claus," "Jingle Bells" (Nat and vocal group), Memory Song: "The Christmas Song" (Nat), "Silent Night" (vocal group)
Note: Nat's daughters Cookie (Carol) and Sweetie (Natalie) show up at the close of the show.

009

1-09

12/31/1956

Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Almost Like Being in Love," "Route 66," "Love Me Tender," "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" (Nat)
Note: This show originated from Hollywood and aired in color.

010

1-10

1/7/1957

Unidentified vocal group, unidentified orchestra
Songs: "Thou Swell," "You Stepped Out Of a Dream," "Two Different Worlds," "Crazy Rhythm"

011

1-11

1/14/1957

January 14th, 1957 - The Nat King Cole Show

Stuff Smith, The Herman McCoy Singers (4 men, 4 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Pick Yourself Up," "Somebody Loves Me," "Love Me Tender" (Nat) "I Know That You Know" (Nat and his combo with Stuff), Memory Song: "A Little Street Where Old Friends Meet"
Note: Violinist Stuff Smith was Nat's first guest.  They had played together on Nat’s "After Midnight" album, recorded in 1956.

012

1-12

1/21/1957

January 21st, 1957 - The Nat King Cole Show

The Herman McCoy Singers (3 men, 3 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Announcer: Vince Pelletier
Songs: "Just in Time" (Nat vocal/piano), "Jealous Lover" (Nat and McCoy Singers), "You Are My First Love" (Nat), "The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)" (Nat and McCoy Singers), Memory Song: "Ballerina" (Nat)
Note: This episode was sponsored Carter Products, with commercials for Arrid deodorant and Rise shaving cream. At the close of the show, Nat announces that he'll be leaving the next day for New York City, where he'll be appearing "this coming Wednesday" for one week at the Paramount Theater.

013

1-13

1/28/1957

January 28th, 1957 - The Nat King Cole Show

Count Basie, The Boataneers (4 men, 1 woman), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Announcer: Bill Hanrahan
Songs: "I'm Sitting On Top of the World," "This Can't Be Love" (Nat), "Namely You" (Nat and Boataneers), "Lady Be Good" (Nat sings and Basie plays piano, then Nat and Basie alternate on piano), Memory Song: "September Song" (Nat and Boataneers)
Note: Ella Fitzgerald was to have joined the guest roster but cancelled due to illness. Nat tells viewers to watch 21 with Charles Van Doren, the infamous quiz show and contestant soon caught up in one of the biggest scandals in TV history.  This show originated from New York.

014

1-14

2/4/1957

Unidentified vocal group, unidentified orchestra
Songs: "You're the Top," "But Not For Me," "You Are My First Love" (Nat), "Just You, Just Me" (Nat vocal/piano and his combo - probably John Collins, guitar; Charlie Harris, bass; Lee Young, drums), Memory Song: "There Will Never Be Another You" (Nat)
Note: Nat was appearing at The Tropicana in Havana for two weeks, and this show originated from Miami. Nat mentions that his new sponsor is America's largest-selling deodorant (probably Arrid).

015

1-15

2/11/1957

Unidentified vocal group, Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "That's My Girl" (Nat), "Coquette," "True Love" (Nat and vocal group), "Tea For Two" (Nat on piano), Memory Song: "My Funny Valentine" (Nat)
Note: This show originated from Miami.

016

1-16

2/18/1957

February 18th, 1957 - The Nat King Cole Show

The Boataneers (4 men, 1 woman), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "I'm Shooting High" (Nat), "Blueberry Hill" (Nat and Boataneers), "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face," "Ballerina," Memory Song: "Pretend" (Nat)
Note: This show features commercials for Arrid and Rise.

017

1-17

2/25/1957

Unidentified vocal group, Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Should I?" (Nat), "It All Depends On You," "Namely You" (Nat and vocal group), "This Is My Night To Dream" (Nat vocal/piano with his combo), Memory Song: "Unforgettable" (Nat)

018

1-18

3/4/1957

No details known

019

1-19

3/11/1957

No details known

020

1-20

3/18/1957

No details known

021

1-21

3/25/1957

Maria Cole (Nat's wife)
Song: "You're Getting To Be a Habit With Me" (Nat and Maria)
Note: This show originated from Hollywood. Maria Cole, under the name "Marie Ellington," had a moderately successful career with Duke Ellington (no relation) and as a solo singer.

022

1-22

4/1/1957

Song: "Stardust"

023

1-23

4/8/1957

No details known

024

1-24

4/15/1957

No details known

025

1-25

4/22/1957

No details known

026

1-26

4/29/1957

No details known

027

1-27

5/6/1957

Songs: "Sweet Lorraine," "Lucky Day," "Stay As Sweet As You Are"

028

1-28

5/13/1957

No details known

029

1-29

5/20/1957

No details known

030

1-30

5/27/1957

No details known

031

1-31

6/3/1957

No details known

032

1-32

6/10/1957

No details known

033

1-33

6/17/1957

No details known

034

1-34

6/24/1957

No details known

 


I've been unable to assign airdates to the following 15-minute episodes, but they undoubtedly fell on the "no details known" dates above. Stan Kenton, Lurlean Hunter, and Harry Warren (in that order) all guest starred after March 25, 1957.

Series
#

Season
#

Airdate

Guests, Regulars, and Songs

 

 

 

The Randy Van Horne Singers (4 men, 2 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "My Blue Heaven," "Old Folks" (Nat and Van Horne Singers), "Down By the Old Mill Stream," (Randy Van Horne Singers), "Kee-mo Ky-Mo" (Nat), "When Rock 'n Roll Came to Trinidad," Memory Song: "Home" (Nat and Van Horne Singers)
Note: Nat dedicated this show "to every member of the American family - yours and mine."

 

 

 

The Randy Van Horne Singers (3 men, 2 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Lucky Day" (Nat and Van Horne Singers), "Stay As Sweet As You Are" (Nat), "Sometimes I'm Happy" (Nat with Combo - probably John Collins, guitar; Joe Comfort, bass; Lee Young, drums), "Caravan" (Nat with Combo - same musicians plus Juan Tizol, trombone; Jack Constanzo, bongos), Memory Song: "Shadow Waltz" (Nat and Van Horne Singers)
Note: This show featured members of the backstage crew: Jim Kilgore (lighting), Raoul Murphy (audio), Joe Conn (technical director), and Sid Rushakoff (art director).

 

 

 

Unidentified vocal group, Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Chicago," "Where or When" (Nat and vocal group), "Tea for Two" (Nat on piano), Memory Song: "There Will Never Be Another You" (Nat)
Note: Nat was appearing at Chez Paree in Chicago and did this show from that city. He shows the audience the June 1957 issue of Ebony magazine which features an article about the movie China Gate (in which Nat appears) and introduces a clip from it.

 

 

 

Lurlean Hunter, unidentified vocal group, unidentified orchestra
Song: "Muskrat Ramble" (Nat and vocal group), "Sweet Lorraine" (Nat with combo), "It Never Entered My Mind" (Lurlean), "Too Marvelous for Words" (Lurlean and Nat with Nat on piano), Memory Song: "Love Letters" (Nat)
Note: This episode originated from Chicago

 

 

 

The Randy Van Horne Singers (3 men, 2 women), unidentified orchestra
Songs: "It Was Just One of Those Things" (Nat and Van Horne Singers), "Easy to Love," "The Party's Over" (Nat), "When Rock 'n Roll Came to Trinidad", Memory Song: "The Sand and the Sea" (Nat and Van Horne Singers)
Note: Nat was appearing at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas but flew in to Hollywood for his TV show.

 

 

 

Harry Warren, The Randy Van Horne Singers (3 men, 2 women), unidentified orchestra
Songs: "Lulu's Back in Town," "Lullaby of Broadway," "September in the Rain" (Nat and Van Horne Singers), "We're in the Money" (Van Horne Singers with Harry at the piano), "With Plenty of Money and You" (Nat and Van Horne Singers), Memory Song: "You'll Never Know" (Nat)

 

 

 

The Randy Van Horne Singers (3 men, 2 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" (Nat and vocal group), "So Long, My Love," "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?" (Nat), "Crazy Rhythm" (Nat vocal/piano and his combo - probably John Collins, guitar; Charlie Harris, bass; Lee Young, drums), Memory Song: "Red Sails in the Sunset" (Nat and vocal group)
Note: In the show's opening, Nat announces that they'll be doing the show "just as though we were coming to you from the Copa Room of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, where I'm currently appearing."

 

 

 

Unidentified vocal group, unidentified orchestra
Songs: "Almost Like Being in Love," "Anything Goes," "It's All in the Game" (Nat), "Where or When" (Nat and vocal group), Memory Song: "Love is the Thing" (Nat)
Note: This episode appears to immediately follow the one above. The theme is outdoor Las Vegas (as opposed to the previous week's Copa Room theme), and the backdrop consists of films and still photos of that city's streets, night clubs, and other sites.

 



30-Minute Episodes (Tuesday, 10:00-10:30 pm)
In July 1957, NBC gave Nat a half hour to work with and moved him to Tuesday nights. The hour was a bit late for this kind of show, but both parties expressed optimism that a regular national sponsor could be found. Variety liked seeing more of Nat but felt the extra minutes gave him more time to clown around - something that wasn't his forte. It wanted more music and less comedy.

Series
#

Season
#

Airdate

Guests, Regulars, and Songs

035

2-01

7/2/1957

Frankie Laine, The Randy Van Horne Singers (3 men, 2 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "I'm Shootin' High" (Nat), "When Rock 'n Roll Came to Trinidad" (Nat and Van Horne Singers), "It Only Happens Once" (Excerpt) (Nat), "Without Him" (Frankie), "Love Letters in the Sand" (Nat and Van Horne Singers), tongue-in-cheek medley of "That's My Desire" (Frankie)/"Nature Boy" (Nat)/"Rockin' Chair" (Frankie)/"By the River Sainte-Marie" (Nat and Frankie)/"Mona Lisa" (Nat)/"On the Sunny Side of the Street" (Frankie)/"Night Lights" (Nat)/"Be a Clown" (Nat and Frankie), "I Get a Kick Out of You" (Nat on piano), Memory Song: "Stay As Sweet As You Are" (Nat)

036

2-02

7/9/1957

July 9th 1957 - The Nat King Cole Show

Mel Tormé, June Christy, The Randy Van Horne Singers (3 men, 2 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Crazy Rhythm" (Nat and Van Horne Singers) "When I Fall in Love" (Nat), "I Want To Be Happy" (June), "Send For Me" (Nat, Van Horne Singers, and combo), "A Foggy Day" (Mel), "Exactly Like You" (Mel on piano and drums), "Exactly Like You" (Nat and Mel dancing), "How High the Moon" (June on vocal, Nat on piano, Mel on drums, probably John Collins on guitar, Joe Comfort on bass), Memory Song: "I'm in the Mood for Love" (Nat and Van Horne Singers)
Note: Nat announces that in two weeks his guests will be Sammy Davis Jr. and the Hi-Lo's.

037

2-03

7/16/1957

Pearl Bailey, Louis Bellson, The Randy Van Horne Singers (3 men, 2 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Breezin' Along With the Breeze," "My Personal Possession" (Nat and Van Horne Singers), "You Came a Long Way From St. Louis" (Pearl), "Around the World" (Nat and the Van Horne Singers), "Non Dimenticar" (Pearl), "C-U-B-A" (Nat), "Takes Two to Tango" (Pearl), Drum Solo (Louis), "I Can't Rock 'n Roll to Save My Soul" (Pearl), Memory Song: "The Nearness of You" (Nat and the Van Horne Singers)
Note: Nat announces that Sammy Davis Jr. and the Hi-Lo's will be coming up in August and in two weeks his guests will be Robert Mitchum and the King Sisters.

 

 

7/23/1957

Pre-empted by "The Big Issue," a debate about the then-current civil rights bill before Congress

038

2-04

7/30/1957

Sammy Davis Jr., The Hi-Lo's, The Randy Van Horne Singers (4 men, 4 women), unidentified orchestra
Songs: "Taking a Chance on Love" (Nat and the Van Horne Singers), "Maybe It's Because (I Love You Too Much)" (Nat), "I'm Ridin' for the Moon," Dance Number (Sammy), "My Sugar is So Refined" (the Hi-Lo's), "It's Only a Paper Moon" (Nat singing and playing piano), "Somewhere Along the Way" (Nat and Sammy), Comedy Sketch: "A Night in A Café" or "The Brother's Return" (Nat and Sammy), Memory Songs: "Beyond the Blue Horizon" and "Linger Awhile" (Nat, Sammy, the Hi-Lo's, the Van Horne Singers)
Note: According to TV Guide, Robert Mitchum and The King Sisters were to have guest starred, but it appears that Mitchum cancelled out and the King Sisters were rescheduled for 8/20/1957.

039

2-05

8/6/1957

Harry Belafonte, The Randy Van Horne Singers (4 men, 4 women), unidentified orchestra
Songs: "Love Is Sweeping the Country," "It's Not For Me To Say" (Nat and Van Horne Singers), "Did You Hear About Jerry," "Scarlet Ribbons" (Harry), "I Thought About Marie" (Nat), Short versions of "Straighten Up and Fly Right," "Nature Boy" (Nat), and "How High the Moon" (Nat on piano, Harry on drums), "Island in the Sun" (Harry), "Send For Me" (Nat and Harry), "Mama Look a Boo-Boo Day" (Nat, Harry, and Van Horne Singers), Memory Song: "Unforgettable" (Nat)

040

2-06

8/13/1957

Lisa Kirk, Jimmie Komack, The Randy Van Horne Singers, Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Valentine," "Pigalle," (Nat), "Alouette" (Nat and four boys), "Mam'selle" (Nat), "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody" (Jimmie), "The Paris Merry-Go-Round," "Hi-Lili Hi-Lo" (Lisa), "C'est Si Bon" (Nat vocal/piano, Lisa and Jimmie), "La Seine" (Nat and Van Horne Singers), Memory Song: "You Were Only Passing By" (Nat)
Note: Nat and his guests salute Paris.

041

2-07

8/20/1957

Johnny Desmond, The King Sisters, Alvino Rey
Songs: "When You're Smiling," "It All Depends On You" (Nat), "Easy to Love" (The King Sisters), "Where or When" (Nat), "I'll Be Seeing You" (Johnny), "Moonlight in Vermont" (Alvino), "Consideration" (Johnny)
Note: This is the only 30-minute episode I don't have a copy of, so information comes from TV Guide. In the previous episode, Nat describes this as "a cavalcade of songs from the past thirty years."

042

2-08

8/27/1957

Margaret Whiting, The Merry Macs, The Randy Van Horne Singers (3 men, 2 women), unidentified orchestra
Songs: "Another Opening, Another Show" (Nat and Van Horne Singers), "Raintree County" (Nat), "Pop Goes the Weasel" (The Merry Macs), "It Might As Well Be Spring" (Margaret), "I'm Sitting On Top of the World" (Nat), "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" (The Merry Macs), "Alone Together" (Margaret), "Pretend" (Nat), "Chopsticks" (The Merry Macs with Nat and Margaret on piano), Memory Song: "Shine On Harvest Moon" (Nat)
Note: This was billed as The Nat King Cole Summer Theatre.

043

2-09

9/3/1957

Peggy Lee, Julius La Rosa, The Randy Van Horne Singers, Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "It's a Good Day" (Nat and Van Horne Singers), "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" (Nat), "My Heart Stood Still" (Peggy), "With You On My Mind" (Nat and Van Horne Singers - four men only), "Famous Last Words" (Julius), "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" (Peggy), "That Old Black Magic" (Julius), "How High the Moon" (Nat), "Makin' Records" (sung to the tune of "Makin' Whoopee") (Nat, Peggy and Julius), Memory Song: "There's a Gold Mine in the Sky" (Nat and Van Horne Singers)
Note: This show's theme is records.

044

2-10

9/10/1957

Ella Fitzgerald, The Four Lads, The Randy Van Horne Singers (3 men, 2 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Pick Yourself Up" (Nat and Van Horne Singers), "Anything Goes" (Nat), "Standing On the Corner," "The Eyes of God" (The Four Lads), "Fascination" (Nat), "Goody Goody," "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" (Ella), "It's All Right With Me" (Ella with Nat vocal/piano), "You're the Top" (Ella and Nat), Memory Song: "Love Is the Thing" (Nat)
Note: This is the first of four consecutive shows originating from the Copa Room at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.

 



30-Minute Episodes (Tuesday, 7:30-8:00 pm)
When strong ratings failed to materialize for Nat's new half-hour show, NBC tried moving him to an earlier time slot in the fall of 1957. Unfortunately, that pitted him against Cheyenne and Sugarfoot, two popular western shows that aired alternate weeks on ABC. With no big national sponsor in sight, Nat decided to pull the plug at the end of the year.

Series
#

Season
#

Airdate

Guests, Regulars, and Songs

045

3-01

9/17/1957

Tony Martin, The Sparkletones, The Jerry Graff Singers (2 men, 2 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Lucky Day" (Nat and Graff Singers), "An Affair to Remember" (Nat), "Rocket," "Black Slacks" (The Sparkletones), "It's All in the Game" (Nat), "At Last" (Tony and Graff Singers), "Manhattan" (Tony and Nat), "On the Sunny Side of the Street" (Nat vocal/piano and Tony vocal/clarinet), Memory Song: "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" (Nat and Graff Singers), "Shadow Waltz" (Nat), "I'll See You In My Dreams" (Tony)
Note: This show originated from the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.

046

3-02

9/24/1957

Gogi Grant, dance trio The Dunhills, The Copa Girls, The Jerry Graff Singers (2 men, 2 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Who Cares," "Soft Sands" (Nat and Graff Singers), "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," "It's a Wonderful Thing To Be Loved" (Gogi), "With You On My Mind" (Nat and Graff Singers), "Blue Skies" (The Dunhills), "Tea for Two" (Nat and The Dunhills), Memory Song: "Mona Lisa" (Nat)
Note: This show originated from the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Gogi Grant did the singing for The Helen Morgan Story.

047

3-03

10/1/1957

Tony Bennett, The Beachcombers with Natalie, unidentified orchestra; cameo by Jane Russell
Songs: "Little Girl," "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" (Nat), "In the Middle of an Island," "I Am" (Tony), "Raintree County" (Nat), "It Must Be True" (The Beachcombers with Natalie), "Muskrat Ramble" (The Beachcombers with Natalie plus Nat, Tony, bassist Charlie Harris, and drummer Lee Young), Memory Song: "Star Dust" (Nat)
Note: In honor of his 47th episode, Nat's guests handle the introductions. This show originated from the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Jane Russell, the star who will succeed Nat at the hotel's Copa Room, comes on at the end of the show. Charlie Harris and Lee Young were members of Nat's combo.

048

3-04

10/8/1957

Eartha Kitt, The Jerry Graff Singers (2 men, 2 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "I'm Just Breezin' Along With the Breeze," "It's Not For Me To Say" (Nat and Graff Singers), "Just an Old Fashioned Girl" (Eartha), "My One Sin" (Nat), "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" (Eartha), "The Sheik of Araby" (Eartha and Nat), Memory Song: "Maybe It's Because I Love You Too Much" (Nat)
Note: This show originated from Hollywood. At the time, Nat and Eartha were shooting the film St. Louis Blues.

049

3-05

10/15/1957

Norman Granz' Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) featuring Roy Eldridge (trumpet), Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz, Illinois Jacquet, Flip Phillips (tenor saxophone), Oscar Peterson (piano), Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass), Jo Jones (drums); Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "It's Only a Paper Moon" (Nat with Riddle Orchestra; sax solo by Phillips), "Sweet Lorraine" (Nat with Hawkins, Peterson, Ellis, and Brown), "C Jam Blues" (Phillips, Jacquet, Eldridge, Peterson, Ellis, Brown, and Jones), "I Want To Be Happy" (Nat on piano with Ellis, Brown, Jones, Eldridge, and Getz), "With You On My Mind" (Nat with Phillips, Jacquet, and Riddle Orchestra), "Stompin' at the Savoy" (Nat with Getz, Hawkins, Eldridge, Peterson, Ellis, Brown, and Jones), Memory Song: "Tenderly" (Nat with Peterson, Ellis, Brown, and Riddle Orchestra), "Shadow Waltz" (JATP), "Shadow Waltz" (Nat on piano with Riddle Orchestra)
Note: Impresario Norman Granz acts as co-emcee with Nat, helping him introduce the numbers. Granz' first JATP concert on July 2, 1944 featured Nat on piano. At the end of "Stompin' at the Savoy," the horns play the melody to Coleman Hawkins' "Spotlite." Leading into the "memory song" segment, the melody to "Memories" is played by Hawkins, rather than sung by a vocal group.

050

3-06

10/22/1957

Cab Calloway, Hugh O'Brian, The Randy Van Horne Singers (4 men), unidentified orchestra
Songs: "I'm Shooting High," "Don't Move," "My Personal Possession" (Nat and Van Horne Singers), "Home on the Range" (Nat), "It Ain't Necessarily So" (Cab), "Don't Fence Me In" (Nat and Cab), "The Calloway Boogie" (Cab), "California, Here I Come" (Nat on piano), Memory Song: "Give a Thought" (Nat)
Note: O'Brian is billed as Nat's "surprise guest," with the only clue being that he's one of TV's biggest western stars. Not surprisingly, this show has a western theme. O'Brian had just released a vocal album and Nat sings "Don't Move" from that album.

051

3-07

10/29/1957

Johnny Mercer, The Cheerleaders (2 men, 2 women), unidentified orchestra
Songs: "I'm Sitting On Top of the World" (Nat), "Dream" (Nat and Cheerleaders), "Send For Me" (Johnny), "My Heart Reminds Me" (Nat vocal/piano), "Save the Bones For Henry Jones" (Nat vocal/piano with Johnny), Mercer Medley (Cheerleaders), Memory Song: "Autumn Leaves" (Nat)
Note: Singer-songwriter Johnny Mercer was one of the founders of Capitol Records, Nat's label. Johnny tells the audience that Nat will appear on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person show the following Friday night, which would make it November 1, 1957.

052

3-08

11/5/1957

Cornel Wilde, Peggy King, Michel Ray, Billy Preston, The Cheerleaders (2 men, 2 women), unidentified orchestra, dixieland combo with Teddy Buckner (trumpet), Barney Bigard (clarinet), George Washington (trombone), Gerry Wiggins (piano), Art Edwards (bass), Lee Young (drums)
Songs: "Who Cares" (Nat and Cheerleaders), "Fascination" (Nat), "Careless Love" (Nat and Combo), "When I Fall In Love" (Nat), "Billy's Boogie" (Billy on organ), "Blueberry Hill" (Nat and Billy on vocal/organ), Memory Song: "St. Louis Blues," "It's Just About That Time Again" (Nat)
Note: Nat uses some of the actual sets from his upcoming movie St. Louis Blues, in which he plays songwriter W. C. Handy. A future music star himself, 11-year-old Billy Preston, who in the film plays Handy as a boy, sings and plays the organ. Also on hand are movie stars Wilde, King, and Ray, plugging their own pictures. They each give Nat a cake and presents for his daughters Sweetie (Carol) and Cookie (Natalie). Nat announces that this is the first anniversary of his show and debuts his new closing theme, "It's Just About That Time Again."

053

3-09

11/12/1957

Mahalia Jackson, The Cheerleaders (2 men, 2 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Button Up Your Overcoat" (Nat and Cheerleaders), "Raintree County" (Nat), "Diga Diga Doo" (Nelson and Orchestra), "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" (Mahalia), "Steal Away To Jesus" (Mahalia and Nat), Medley: "I Feel a Song Comin' On" (Nat and Cheerleaders)/"I Hear Music" (Cheerleaders)/"It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" (Nat)/"True Love" (Nat)/"Kingston Town" (Cheerleaders)/"Jailhouse Rock" (Nat)/"Down By the River Side" (Mahalia)/"Sing, Sing, Sing"/"The Song Is Ended (But the Melody Lingers On)" (Nat and Cheerleaders), Memory Song: "My Heart Stood Still" (Nat)
Note: Orchestra leader and arranger Nelson Riddle is one of the featured guests and Nat introduces him and his copyists. My best guess is that the orchestra soloists are Conrad Gozzo (trumpet) and Buddy Collette (tenor saxophone). The bassist is Charlie Harris (of the King Cole Trio), and ex-Duke Ellington sideman Juan Tizol can be seen in the trombone section. Mahalia Jackson was featured in Nat's then-current movie St. Louis Blues. Nat introduces The Cheerleaders individually as Tom, Patty, Donna, and Don.

054

3-10

11/19/1957

Ella Fitzgerald, The Cheerleaders (2 men, 2 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Roll Out the Barrel" (Nat and Cheerleaders), "All the Way" (Nat vocal/piano), "The Lady Is a Tramp," "Perdido" (Ella), "Where or When" (Nat and Cheerleaders), "Dancing on the Ceiling" (Ella), "Too Close For Comfort" (Nat and Ella), Memory Song: "Unforgettable" (Nat)
Note: Ella Fitzgerald was featured in Nat's then-current movie St. Louis Blues.

 

 

11/26/1957

Pre-empted by "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" starring Van Johnson (Film). Nat was appearing in Australia this week.

055

3-11

12/3/1957

Betty Hutton, The Cheerleaders (2 men, 2 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "I Want To Be Happy" (Nat and Cheerleaders), "April Love, " "I Am In Love" (Nat), "Now That I Need You" (Betty), "Tea For Two" (Nat on piano), Medley: "Mona Lisa" (Betty)/"Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief" (Nat)/"Answer Me, My Love" (Betty)/"His Rocking Horse Ran Away" (Nat)/"Orange Colored Sky" (Nat and Betty), "Anything You Can Do," "That Old Soft Shoe" (Nat and Betty), Memory Song: "Once In a While" (Nat)
Note: In a lighthearted medley, Nat and Betty sing each other's hits and finish up with a duet on "Orange Colored Sky," a song recorded by both.

056

3-12

12/10/1957

December 10th 1957 - The Nat King Cole Show

The Mills Brothers, The Cheerleaders (2 men, 2 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "Love Is Sweeping the Country" (Nat and Cheerleaders), "Sayonara" (Nat), "Glow Worm," "I Believe In Santa Claus" (Mills Brothers), "Three Blind Mice" (Riddle Orchestra's trombone section), "Lullaby of the Leaves" (Nat and trombones), Medley: "I Want To Be Happy" (Nat)/"I'm the Guy" (Mills Brothers)/"If I Had You" (Nat)/"If I Had My Way" (Mills Brothers)/"I'll String Along With You" (Nat)/"I'll Be Around" (Mills Brothers)/"Sweet Lorraine" (Nat)/"Sweet Adeline" (Mills Brothers and Nat), "Opus One" (Nat, Mills Brothers, Cheerleaders, trombone section), Memory Song: "These Foolish Things Remind Me Of You" (Nat)
Note: As a change of pace, Nat features Nelson Riddle's trombone section (Harold Dina, Juan Tizol, and Russell Brown) on a couple of numbers. In a medley, Nat and The Mills Brothers sing their hits with similar titles.

057

3-13

12/17/1957

Billy Eckstine, The Cheerleaders (2 men, 2 women), Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra
Songs: "When You're Smiling" (Nat and Cheerleaders), "The Party's Over" (Nat), "If I Can Help Somebody" (Billy), "A Blossom Fell" (Nat), "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries" (Billy with Nat vocal/piano), "Rosetta" (Nat vocal/piano and Billy vocal/trumpet/jazzophone with Nat's combo), Memory Song: "The Christmas Song" (Nat)
Note: The rather peculiar-looking instrument Billy plays on "Rosetta" is called a jazzophone, which sounds like a trombone, has valves and a mouthpiece like a brass instrument, but is shaped like a saxophone. At the close of this, Nat's last show, a crawl lists all of the guests who were featured on the program, in the order in which they appeared.

 

 

 

Replaced by the quiz show Treasure Hunt with Jan Murray

 

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