29 June 2018

Published June 27, 2018 by rochellewisoff

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The next photo is the PROMPT. Remember, all photos are property of the photographer, donated for use in Friday Fictioneers only. They shouldn’t be used for any other purpose without express permission. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor credit. 

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Word Count: 100


            When Nathaniel tickled the ivories, he mesmerized Chicago’s jazz club audiences. The talented sixteen-year-old played for hot dogs, soda pop and pure joy. In 1935, he and his band, the Rogues of Rhythm, challenged the great Earl Hines and his Orchestra to a musical duel—and won.

            Twenty-one years later, Capitol Records’ leading vocalist became the first African American to host his own television program. Performers from Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald clamored to donate their services. Despite rave reviews, white sponsors refused to back him.

            Fighting tears, Nat King Cole cancelled his show saying, “Madison Avenue’s afraid of the dark.”



Buddy DeSylva, founder of Capitol Records, is quoted as having said, “If Nat Cole were white, he’d be bigger than Sinatra or Crosby.”

Here’s a clip from the ill-fated The Nat “King” Cole Show

117 comments on “29 June 2018

    • Dear C.E.

      The cancellation of that show was a huge injustice. Although Cole himself cancelled due to lack of sponsors. That voice and that face were a part of my childhood. Happy memories, those. Thank you.




  • What a sad story, made all the more so by current times. I can’t even bring myself to watch the video. In some ways, we’ve come a long way. In other ways, not so much. Beautifully written, as usual, Rochelle.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Susan,

      This one is 100% true. After watching 2 hours of documentaries, I distilled what I could into a flash fiction. According to his widow he did utter the last line. How can you discount such talent because of a man’s color? Appalling.

      Thank you.



      Liked by 1 person

  • The first time I heard the words ‘velvet-voiced’ it was in connection with Mel Torme. Even as a little girl I thought the phrase was better applied to Nat King Cole. Lovely tribute, and beautifully done as ever, Rochelle.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Iain,

      No doubt the sponsors would be clamoring to represent him as were some of the most popular stars in Hollywood at the time. Go figure. I think the doors are cracked open to some degree, but we have a way to go. Thank you.



      Liked by 1 person

  • I’ve worn out many a cassette tape and vinyl in my youth listening to Mr. Cole sing… truly a talented man. Didn’t know that he was African-American until I hit college. All I cared about was that he knew music, and brought it to life. Lovely write, Rochelle. I truly enjoyed it, and love that I can listen to him still via youtube. 🙂 ~Shalom, Jelli

    Liked by 2 people

  • America is and was a deeply racist country, and nowhere is this more evident than in its treatment of musical geniuses like Nat Cole. Nat Cole was an amazing talent. He sounded white, unlike Fats Waller. Because he was “neither fish nor fowl,” he didn’t have the traction with the black audiences (many of whom considered him to be a sellout). The delicate balance was also walked by Harry Belafonte and Sammy Davis, Jr, but even they were never considered wholly acceptable by white audiences. Duke Ellington, arguably the greatest American composer in history, was the picture of grace and style, but was often mistreated and discriminated against. Later artists like Mies Davis and Charles Mingus were embraced by fringe elements of white audiences, but never the mainstream culture. This continues to this day. The first rap superstar was Vanilla Ice.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dear Josh,

      One particular story of Nat Cole that stands out is when he was attacked on stage by white racists in Alabama. If that wasn’t bad enough, because he refused to fight back, his own called him an Uncle Tom. Nonetheless, he was amazing.
      Glad you liked my story and it inspired so much info. Thank you. 😉



      Liked by 1 person

  • That voice – unforgettable. The treatment he received from sponsors – totally regrettable. I agree with many of the comments above – we have moved on a little bit since then, but not far enough! Hopefully what is happening in our country now is just the last ugly gasp and that type of hatred will become history.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Dear Rochelle,

    Nat and his “Pussy-Willow” voice were my standard every time I went to my mother’s. She would say – “Ah, Dale is here, Nat King Cole is on the record player”.

    You, in your inimitable way, have brought this to life. Such a horrid reality that talent, especially in the music business, was dissed on colour. Such a sad reality.

    Lotsa love,


    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Dale,

      It goes to show what great taste you have in music. I’d not heard “pussy willow” voice. But it fits. That man could sing. It’s unthinkable to categorize talent by race and color, isn’t it? Thank you for your sweet comments re my story. 😀 ❤




      • I can’t lay claim to the expression- it was on the back jacket of my mother’s album. I just thought it perfectly represented his voice. So soft and mellow… he definitely could. 💜🧡


  • Nat King Cole was amazing, and you write a lovely tribute. It’s absolutely true that if he’d been white, he would have gotten the appreciation he deserved back then. I keep hoping we will collectively learn from this kind of black mark (pun intended) on our history, but obviously we have a long, long way to go.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Joy,

      The stories of what black entertainers endured back in those days appalls me. I’m afraid that as long as there are people there will be hatred. And I hate that. Thank you for your wonderful comment. (Pun should always be intended. 😉 )



      Liked by 1 person

  • Dear Sarah Josepha Hale W(T)F,

    Rejection is not an easy thing to accept, even if you’re a white, overweight hillbilly who occassionaly wears Care Bear pajamas. I have been rejected by some of the finest and most popular publications in America. Do they fear hillbillies, or is it my choce of apparel?

    While we as a nation have come a long ways over the past 70 years the battle is not won and discrimination still continues and possibly even making a resurgence under the current administration. Thank you for uncovering another piece of little-known history and making it relevant in this platform.

    Keep up the good work,

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Marvin,

      Perhaps those cuddly pajamas might garner more acceptances. Just include the picture with your queries. I’m sure it you’ll get noticed and be remembered.

      I’m not sure history has taught us much of anything. Sigh. Pity, my friends of color are some of the most fascinating and intelligent. Now those white hillbillies are something else entirely…;)


      Sarah Josepha Hale W(T)F

      Liked by 1 person

  • Poor Nat King Cole was just too early, sadly – a few decades later and yes, he wouldn’t have faced any such problems. I think you’re quote is right – he would have been bigger if he’d been white, his voice was absolutely beautiful, so moving, perfection.
    Many black artists faced the same prejudice – Sammy Davis Jr was allowed to perform for white people, with white artists but wasn’t allowed to use the same hotel as those he shared the bill with. Sickening, all of it.
    Cole seems like he was a lovely man too, taken too early by lung cancer.
    A sad but fitting story, Rochelle

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Lynn,

      Nat King Cole ran into the same issue as Sammy Davis Jr. He wasn’t allowed to stay in the very same hotels he performed in. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? As for his early death…damned cigarettes. (My mother died the same way 😦 )
      Thank you re my story.



      Liked by 1 person

  • Nat King Cole was awesome. I can still remember his rich voice. It’s a shame he didn’t gather more fame. He deserved it. Still, he paved the way for others after him. Our current artists owe him a debt.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Na’ama,

      It’s all good, now that I know the whys and wherefores. 😉
      I suppose, there’s some progress. At least we don’t force people to use separate restrooms and water fountains. However, about 20 years ago I was with a dance troupe visiting Selma, Alabama. The bigotry lies just below the surface and it’s ugly. Thank you.



      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, hate will rise when given opportunity and stoked by fear-of-the-other by dogmatic authoritarians who feed on such energies. We’ve seen it happen throughout history, always against minorities and those who are more vulnerable or more easily pushed off of the ‘have rights’ list. We also saw people rise above it, resist it, work to end hate, work to raise the standard of ethics so more people have better rights. I’ll hold hope that light will find a way. Na’ama (PS the comment about the link was sorta tongue in cheek … 😉 ).

        Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Brenda,

      My tears rolled as I watched two documentaries about him, back to back. What a beautiful voice and sweet man. I remember watching him on television as a child and not caring about his race. That smile just roped you in and his voice kept you there. Thank you re my story.



      Liked by 1 person

  • There is so much cheer and positivity in this that it makes the cutting and devastating last line so powerful, and sad. A thought-provoking slice of history, one that promotes joy on hearing Nat’s voice, and incredulity at fear of the dark.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Like a few others it seems, I had no idea his show was cancelled. The clip made me smile because his voice is perfect and he is so charming, but it’s bittersweet knowing that it was taken away from him so unjustly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Ellie,

      He actually cancelled the show himself due to lack of sponsorship. But in a sense it was taken from him by the unjust bias of the white community that controlled Wall Street. Sad times in history. Thank you.



      Liked by 1 person

  • A fantastic piece. Learned a lot from it. Very powerful. I think we’ve come a long way from those days filled with so much of that evil twosome prejudice and ignorance but there’s still a long way to go. Great piece.

    Liked by 2 people

  • I had ‘heard’ of Nat King Cole but this is the first time I heard him – wow what a voice! Unforgettable indeed and what a lovely tribute and a reminder not to let history repeat itself. Once again thank you Rochelle 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • I noticed how his motivation to play changed over the years…
    First he was ready to play for food and drinks.
    Later, he decided not to play for self-respect…
    Have a lovely weekend, Rochelle!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Anita,

      It wasn’t that his motivation changed so much as he matured. 😉 His childhood dreams became reality and income. I don’t believe he ever lost self-respect. Thank you.




    • Dear Indira,

      I don’t know if we’ve moved very far unfortunately. I believe that creativity and talent are bestowed upon those who will use it, regardless of skin color. I wish we could learn to celebrate that fact. One race–HUMAN. Thank you for your lovely comment.



      Liked by 1 person

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