Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nat King Cole, "Mona Lisa," "Orange Colored Sky," & Milton DeLugg

This February 15th will mark the 45th anniversary of the death of Nat King Cole. He died in 1965, a month before his 46th birthday.

Here’s a video of Cole, singing one of his best-known songs, “Mona Lisa”; it was a hit record in 1950. I don’t know what year the video is from, but Cole’s performance of the song (as is typical of his performances) is quite beautiful.

Cole had another hit in 1950, with the song “Orange Colored Sky”; he was accompanied, on the record, by Stan Kenton’s orchestra. Here’s the recording, via YouTube:

Musician and bandleader Milton DeLugg (about whom I’ve written previously, in this space, and who is interviewed in my book) co-wrote “Orange Colored Sky” (with Willie Stein).

In 1950, DeLugg was the bandleader on (and was well-known for playing the accordion on) network TV’s first late-night hit show, Broadway Open House. He played “Orange Colored Sky” regularly on the program.

The star of Broadway Open House, comedian Jerry Lester, recorded a version of the song, prior to the recording made famous by Nat King Cole and Stan Kenton. A version was also recorded by Betty Hutton.

In their book, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (Ballantine Books, several editions), authors Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh write that DeLugg’s frequent performances of “Orange Colored Sky,” on Broadway Open House, led to this distinction: that it was “probably the first song ever to become a hit through television exposure.”