Sunday, September 24, 2006

Saturday night archived

Eric Deggans' media blog at touched off a night watching old Nat Cole clips on YouTube. I'm a bit older than Deggans, with dim but persistent memories of "The Nat 'King' Cole Show" and other variety fare from the late 1950s. Network TV would air jazz and classical music then because the programmers thought of their audience as sentient beings.

By 1956 Cole was a mainstream pop singer like Perry Como or Dinah Shore, yet NBC scheduled Cole with neither a synergistic RCA record contract nor a network sponsor. Advertisers feared a Southern boycott. The biography by Mary Ann Watson for the Museum of Broadcast Communications quotes an embittered Cole: "A man sees a Negro on a television show. What's he going to do — call up the telephone company and tell them to take out the phone?"

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