In 1945 Nat “King” Cole was well on his way to becoming one of the most popular, influential and beloved entertainers in American music. He had some hits under his belt, including “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” but at this time – that is, the mid 1940s – he was still best known as a trio leader and one of the finest jazz pianists in the music. The step to “master balladeer” was still a bit in the future.
“Got a Penny, Benny” is a tune that was part of the trio’s “book,” and was made into a Soundie in November 1945. Written by Robert Sherman and Henry May, Nat sings the jivey lyrics in a swinging and relaxed fashion. As a friend once remarked, “Nat was cool before it was cool to be cool.” String bassist Johnny Miller provides strong rhythmic support for Nat and electric guitarist Oscar Moore, both of whom have their say during far-too-brief solos.
This is one of my all-time favorite Soundies … hope you agree!