Donna King Conkling still remembers drinking milk shakes with Frank Sinatra in New York's central railroad station between shows. Donna and her three sisters were playing at the Biltmore Hotel, Sinatra was playing next door.
It was the 1940s. Big bands, male crooners and quartets and trios like the King Sisters were hot.Today, Conkling, talking by telephone from Los Angeles, and Luise King Rey, sitting in her living room in Sandy, say their careers have never really ended. The six King sisters who have performed together at one time or another are now entering their 70s.
"We have kept up with the times. We didn't always sing our old hits as the Andrews Sisters and some have done. We modernized ourselves with each generation. We were rediscovered over and over again," Conkling said.
The more than 120 descendants, some who cut their teeth on show biz in the family's 1960s television show, still carry on the family's entertainment legacy.
The King Family sound first started more than 50 years ago when former Snow Normal College music teacher William King Driggs started the Driggs Family Orchestra. The family traveled through the western United States performing at churches and community halls.
Eventually three of his daughters - Maxine, Luise and Alyce - got on the air at an Oakland radio station, using their father's middle name "King."
Donna, Yvonne and Marilyn would later sing at different times with the group.
It was during one of the original trio's KSL shows that big-band leader Horace Heidt tuned in and liked what he heard. He had been looking for a girls trio to replace a dog named Lobo on his vaudeville act, which he performed between the movies at the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco.
It was with Heidt - in San Francisco, Chicago and New York - that the King Sisters started their rise to stardom. Eventually, it was Heidt's guitarist, Alvino Rey, who married Luise and formed his own band.
"I do feel that our forte in life has been that we have lived a very normal life. We were really in show business all of our life to some degree, but we didn't live the way most people live in show business," Conkling said.
"If we were in town a week, we got an apartment. If we were in town a month we got a house."
Stardom brought with it one-night stands across the country and contracts at New York's Paramount Theater and Astor Hotel. The end of the war brought an end to the big-band era. The sisters disbanded for a time but got back together in the early '50s. This time youngest sibling Marilyn replaced Donna. They updated their repertoire and recorded the hit album "Imagination."
In the '60s, the King Sisters and their families were rediscovered after doing a benefit concert to raise money at Brigham Young University. That led to six years on television with the "King Family Show."
During the past decade the sisters toured during a renaissance of big-band music. In 1984, the Alvino Rey Band and the King Sisters played at one of the inaugural balls for President Reagan. Even today, Alvino Rey, his band and Luise still frequently play at jazz festivals.
Here are profiles of the King family
WILLIAM KING AND PEARL DRIGGS, now deceased. Father of "King Sisters" was aPleasant Grove native and Snow College music teacher who started family traveling show. Daughters adopted father's middle name as their stage name.
MAXINE THOMAS, one of the original trio. Lives in Corona, Calif. Retired from group in early 1930s.
LUISE REY, a member of the original trio. She now lives in Sandy and is married to big-band leader and guitarist Alvino Rey. The Reys still perform regularly. Daughter Liza Rey Butler plays harp with the Houston Symphony and also solos on jazz harp.
ALYCE CLARKE, a member of the original trio. Married actor Robert J. Clarke and now lives in North Hollywood. Lex, a son by the late Sydney de Azevedo, is well-known musician and composer. Another son, Ric de Azevedo, is an assistant director with Warner Brothers.> DONNA CONKLING married James Conkling, former president of Columbia Records and director of Voice of America. They live in Los Angeles. Son Christopher is a writer.
YVONNE OR "VONNIE" GREEN started singing with group at age 14. Daughter by first husband Buddy Cole, Tina, starred on television show "My Three Sons."
MARILYN SMITH lives in Los Angeles. Debuted as substitute with group at age 10. Later replaced Donna in the 1950s.
WILLIAM KING JR. AND KARLETON, brothers, are deceased.