THERE are many stories of acts being terrified to perform at the infamous Empire on Sauchiehall Street.

But legendary singer Nat King Cole was a braver man than most.

During his run at the Glasgow venue in 1954, he was heckled relentlessly by fans badgering him to sing When I Fall in Love.

Exasperated, the star finally snapped: “Perhaps you would like to come up and sing it yourself?”

This was a mistake.

The delighted fan wasted no time in hopping up on to the stage and starting belting out the classic.

With his arm around a thoroughly taken aback Cole, he yelled: “Come on Nat, join in….”

The velvety-voiced jazz crooner and pianist was born Nathaniel Adams Coles in Montgomery, Alabama in 1917.

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The son of a Baptist minister, he moved with his family to Chicago in the early 1920s. He and his six siblings were musical, and Nat was taught piano by his mother Perlina from an early age.

By the time he was five he had given his first public performance, and from the age of 11 he was playing the organ regularly at his father’s church.

Cole formed his first band, a 12-piece outfit called the Royal Dukes, when he was still at school, and they played at local dances, usually in return for hamburgers and hot dogs.

When Cole graduated from high school, he worked with his elder brother, Eddie, who was already a professional jazz musician. Eddie formed a sextet, Eddie Cole’s Solid Swingers, with which Nat made his recording debut in 1936.

He went on to make a living playing in bars and clubs around the city, but his luck only really changed when the owner of the Swanee Inn asked him to form a quartet and take up residence.

He hired guitarist Oscar Moore, bass player Wesley Prince, and a drummer who failed to turn up for their first gig. So the quartet became a trio and quickly built up a reputation through regular radio broadcasts from the bandstand at the Swanee Inn.

Glasgow Times:

They began recording for Decca in 1940, and Cole was also soon recording with eminent musicians like tenor saxophonist Lester Young, with whom he made some of his most important jazz recordings. In 1943, with Capitol Records, the trio had its first big hit - Straighten Up and Fly Right, a jive-talk song said to have been based on a sermon delivered by Cole’s father. By 1944, more than a million copies of the disc had been sold and Cole was enjoying widespread recognition for both his singing and his playing.

He became the first black star to have his own radio show (and later the first to have his own TV show).

The trio eventually broke up in 1946, and Cole enjoyed a string of solo hits, including Mona Lisa, Autumn Leaves and When I Fall in Love.

READ MORE: When the Queen of Jazz lit up Glasgow

By the time he arrived in Glasgow in the mid-1950s, he was a huge star. He also starred in several movies, including St Louis Blues in 1958. He was a famous smoker, known for his collection of weird and wonderful pipes. He died, of lung cancer, in 1965.

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