Cole's father, Edward Coles
, was a baptist minister who moved the family to Chicago in the 1920's and became pastor of the True Light Baptist Church.
The Coles children took turns playing the organ at the church services.Cole and his
three brothers and two sisters all showed musical talent, which their parents encouraged.Until the age of twelve Cole played by ear, but then his
mother, Perlina, arranged for him to take formal lessons and learn pieces by Bach and other classical composers.His
mother thoguht Cole would become a classical pianist.
Cole grew up in Chicago surrounded by the exciting jazz sounds of the 1920's and 1930's.His
most important early influence was the jazz pianist Earl Fatha Hines.While still in high school, Cole formed his
own twelve-piece band and also gave up the idea of becoming a classical pianist.He
was about sixteen at the time, and although his
father be not too pleased, his
mother made the group uniform Cossack shirts so they could look more professional.
Nat King Cole was the group's pianist, and they played at school and club dances for whatever payment they could get.Payment was usually in the form of only hot dogs and hamburgers.Occasionally Cole's group played at the Savoy for real money.As this group became better known, Cole's brother Eddie, who had been playing with an orchestra, came home and formed a sextet with Cole and four others.They began to play professionally.
It is said to be Lewis who gave Nat Coles
the nickname King and persuaded him to drop the s from him name.