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November 05

The Nat King Cole Show

Nat "King" Cole’s many show-biz pals—from Peggy Lee to Sammy Davis, Jr. to Mel Torme—appeared on the show for less than their usual wage in order to support Cole.

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

1956: A First of Its Kind
The Nat King Cole Show premieres on television
When this 15-minute program debuted on this day in 1956, Cole became the first African American television show host. As a jazz singer and pianist with a large following of avid fans, Cole was excited to host the program, which featured performances by some of the biggest names in pop music.

Racist attitudes held by some, however, prevented the show from reaching success. You see, advertising agencies were unable to convince enough clients to buy commercial time during the show. When the program was cancelled, a bitterly disappointed Cole remarked that “Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark.”
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