William King Driggs and the King Family

One of the largest and longest-lasting acts in vaudeville began in the 1920s with Utah music and vocal teacher William King Driggs Sr. (1885-1965) who formed a family orchestra with his wife Pearl and kids Karleton (1910-1982), Maxine (1911-2009), Luise (1913-1997), Alyce (1915-1996), Donna (1918-2007), Yvonne (1920-2009), and Bill Jr (1923-1982). A younger child, Marilyn (1931-2013) joined years later. Driggs himself had been in vaudeville; now he toured the circuits with “The Driggs Family of Entertainers”.

By 1931, a new act had split off the old: The King Sisters, (modeled on the popular Boswell Sisters), which over time would grow and shrink from a trio to a quartet to a sextet and back again. For many years they were a staple of Horace Heidt’s radio program and live shows. In 1938 the sisters formed a new act with former Heidt guitarist Alvino Rey, whom Luise had married. The sisters would have a couple of dozen hit records between 1941 and 1945. By 46 there was a split; Luise stayed with Rey’s band, and Marilyn replaced her in the family act, which now joined the Buddy Cole Orchestra. During these years, they also appeared in the films Sing Your Worries Away (1942), Larceny with Music (1943), Meet the People (1944), Thrill of a Romance (1945), On Stage Everybody (1945), and Cuban Pete (1946) with Desi Arnaz. 

The 1950s saw the act enter a new phase — television, and, as a result, a new record contract and more demand for them as a love act. They had their own local show in Los Angeles, but also appeared on such shows as The Red Skelton Hour, The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (they had earlier been regulars on Ozzie and Harriet’s radio show), and The Steve Allen Plymouth Show. Successful appearances on Hollywood Palace in 1964, led to them getting their own ABC tv special and then their own variety series The King Family, the following year. The show (which featured not only the sister act, but the entire extended family) had a devoted cult following, but overall ratings declined. They were cancelled by the network, but starting in 1967 they began self-producing syndicated holiday specials, a tradition through 1974. The last incarnation of the original King Sisters appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1990. Various King Family descendants still perform, however, including the Four King Cousins. Learn more about the act on their official website here.