It seems like the last thing needed at a Nat King Cole recording session would be another pianist named Cole; there's a "carrying coals to Newcastle" groaner in there somewhere to be sure. But that is just what happened in Cole's late career when the smooth balladeer began concentrating on his vocals and session men were brought in to ripple the keyboards. One of these latter players was none other than Buddy Cole. The two men were not actually related, but that didn't stop many writers from assuming that they were brothers. Even worse, the big man Nat often got the credit for what were actually Buddy's piano solos, not robbing Peter to pay Paul but robbing Cole to play Cole. Buddy Cole's actual grand moment of clear public visibility was playing piano onscreen in A Star is Born, as in the original version with Judy Garland. Born Edwin LeMar Cole, he was basically more of a behind the scenes artist, attaining an excellent reputation in recording studios as both a player and conductor, providing innovative touches in his use of instruments such as celeste, harpsichord and organ on sessions. Eventually he acquired the deluxe pipe organ originally used in the Hollywood United Artists theatre and built it into his home studio and created albums of instrumental music which have become cherished items in the weird collections of space age pop fanatics. Cole was raised right in the heart of show business in Hollywood and began working as a theatre organist in the early '30s. In the latter part of that decade he gigged with the dance bands of Frankie Trumbauer and Alvino Rey, among others. He then worked his way into the studios and had a particularly busy schedule creating settings for popular vocal music and jazz singers of the day, including Louis Armstrong, Rosemary Clooney and Tex Ritter. His keyboard stool was a perch from which he was able to contribute to many aspects of popular culture in the '50s. Cole composed the theme for the game show Truth or Consequences and was thus heard noodling during the show for more than a decade. Examples of Cole's playing and band leadership on recordings include a pair of Bing Crosby's greatest singles, "In a Little Spanish Town" and "Old Man River". Film composer Henry Mancini was one of the first to dig Cole's work on organ, making use of him on the theme for the hit television show Mr. Lucky. Unfortunately, Mancini and Cole then got into a feud about just who had invented the organ sound heard, resulting in Cole refusing to play on the soundtrack album for the show. Around this time Cole began recording a series of sides that are perceived as his masterworks, presenting the organ in various settings including solo and big band. These albums came out on Columbia,, Warner Brothers and finally the more specialized Alshire and Doric labels. Cole was married to Yvonne King, member of the King Sisters pop vocal quartet. His former boss Rey married sister Louise King. The pianist should not be confused with the gay comic of the same name. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
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