The King Family Show consisted of 22 hour-long episodes in season one and 17 half-hour episodes in season two. Season one of The King Family Show premiered on January 23, 1965 on the ABC network as a mid-season replacement for the sci-fi anthology series The Outer Limits, which the network had cancelled after two seasons. The prior success of an hour long King Family special on August 29, 1964 along with several performances on The Hollywood Palace and more than 60,000 fan letters pouring into ABC Studios, led the network to move forward on a weekly King Family series starring the Grammy nominated vocal group The King Sisters (Yvonne, Alyce, Luise and Marilyn) and band leader Alvino Rey along with spouses, siblings and children. In all, some thirty-six members of the King family, ranging in age from seven months to 79 years, appeared on the show. The family even created their own company, KingFam Productions (with Yvonne at the helm) for the production of the series.
The King Family Show was shot live on tape before a studio audience and aired on Saturday nights. It was followed by The Lawrence Welk Show. The series creative team consisted of the top talents in the industry including director and choreographer Marc Breaux and choreographer Dee Dee Wood (known for Mary Poppins, and The Sound of Music), producer Nick Vanoff (The Hollywood Palace), The Mitchell Ayres Orchestra and costume designer Bob Mackie amongst others. This was Bob Mackie's first credit as the sole costume designer on any TV series or special.
The King Family Show taped in black and white at The Hollywood Palace Theatre on Vine Street in Hollywood (now known as Avalon Hollywood) and shared its studio space with the ABC variety series of the same name - The Hollywood Palace. Each episode of the series was a song-filled musical showcase featuring many of The King Sisters’ record hits of the Big Band era, songs from Broadway, the movies, the Great American Songbook and contemporary pop hits of the day. Additionally Alvino Rey dazzled audiences with his guitar virtuosity, and signature “talking guitar” specialties while vocal solos were often performed by Alyce King and Marilyn King and occasional dramatic readings, including the popular “The Square,” were provided by the family’s resident thespian Robert “Bob” Clarke. Yvonne “Vonnie” King handled host and MC duties along with her then husband and band leader Del Courtney. One favorite segment, known as "The Top Twenty," featured the teenaged contingent of the family in a mega-medley saluting the Top 20 chart toppers of the week. The King Cousins, costumed in Bob Mackie designed letter sweaters, became popular favorites singing song hits including “Downtown,” “It’s Not Unusual” and “Stop in the Name of Love” amongst others.
Viewers also delighted in watching the King Kids in various songs and skits but were especially fond of Cam, Laurette and Susannah. These young ones showed their natural comedic abilities in cute introductions of the station identification breaks at the mid-point of each episode. The Family received numerous letters from viewers who were charmed by Cam, Laurette and Susannah and felt they were reminiscent of the Charles Schultz “Peanuts” characters come to life. At the beginning of the series run, King Family patriarch, William King Driggs, also appeared in every episode often conducting the family in their closing theme song “Love At Home.” But he tragically suffered a stroke on the set during rehearsals one day and died a week later on April 6, 1965 at just 78 years old.
Building on the popularity of their new series The King Family signed with Warner Bros records on May 8, 1965 (Warner Bros won the bidding war beating out Capitol, Columbia and ABC-Paramount.) They recorded and released their first LP The King Family Show in June and followed that up with five additional Warner Bros. LPs, Christmas with the King Family, Sunday with the King Family, The King Family Album, The King Family Live! In the Round, and The New Sounds of the Fabulous King Sisters.
After taping 22 hour-long episodes during season one, the network announced in June that it would pick up The King Family Show for a second season trimming it to 30 minutes and giving the lead-in half hour to the second season of Shindig! ABC also announced that it would convert The Hollywood Palace Theatre into a color facility and present both The Hollywood Palace and The King Family series in full color for the upcoming season. This decision would temporarily leave its other Saturday night staple, The Lawrence Welk Show, in black and white since that show taped at the ABC Prospect studio which was still a black and white facility. Welk approached the network insisting that his show go to color and threatened to take his popular broadcast to another network if it was not converted to color for the 65/66 season. ABC finally relented and decided the financial solution would be to swap studios – The King Family Show moved production to ABC Prospect and remained in black and white while The Lawrence Welk Show moved to The Hollywood Palace to be presented in color (the Welk show would return to ABC Prospect the following season when that studio was converted into a full color facility.)
Season two of The King Family Show, in its new half-hour format, debuted on September 18, 1965 following a record-breaking nationwide live concert tour by the family and even a "King Family Day" at the 1964/65 World's Fair in New York when the family appeared at the Clariol Pavilion (a sponsor of The King Family Show.) The network had suggested that this shorter format put more emphasis on the teenaged members of the family. Though the series faced stiff competition on Saturday nights from Jackie Gleason on CBS and I Dream Of Jeannie on NBC, it inspired an intensely loyal following. One letter to ABC enthused, "the King Family was beautiful, talented, and completely entertaining. We are buying Wisk and Clairol (sponsor's products) tomorrow." Still, it was announced in December that the series would be cancelled (along with its lead-in Shindig!) with the last episode airing on January 8, 1966. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet would assume The King Family timeslot for what became its final season.
After receiving more than 20,000 letters of protest (reportedly the largest amount of mail received concerning any cancelled program at the time)the network publically stated that it might bring The King Family back in an hour-long format in the summer. Though that series didn’t materialize, ABC would keep The King Family on the network for the next three years through their regular appearances on The Hollywood Palace before bringing The King Family Show back to series TV in the spring of 1969.
| Opening of the premiere episode
||Top Twenty Segment
||The King Sisters perform "Elegance"
Due to the overwhelming popular success of The King Family’s syndicated holiday specials – eight specials had aired up to that point - it was announced on February 18, 1969 that ABC would bring The King Family back to series television on Wednesdays at 8:30pm for a special 13 week series beginning March 19 to replace the show Turn On which ABC cancelled after just one episode on February 5th.
This new COLOR version of The King Family Show would be directed by Tony Charmoli (The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, Your Hit Parade) and again star The King Sisters, Alvino Rey, Robert Clarke along with Kent Larsen (husband of King Sister Marilyn and former lead trombone player with Stan Kenton Orchestra) and The Four King Cousins (the younger successful spin-off vocal group and Capitol Records recording artists consisting of Tina Cole, her sister Cathy Cole Green and cousins Candy Conkling and Carolyn Thomas) plus additional siblings, cousins and spouses. A smaller contingent of the family (around 25 members instead of 36) appeared on this incarnation of the show as many of the cousins were away at college or serving in the military.
This limited run series would primarily focus on contemporary pop music and other popular songs of the day with each episode featuring a King Sisters performance and also a performance by The Four King Cousins. The episodes would open and close with a family number with the remaining spots rotating between Alvino Rey, Kent Larsen, the King kids, cousins and/or solos. During its run The King Sisters offered sparkling renditions of songs including “A House is Not a Home,” “Sunny,” “The Windmills of Your Mind” and “For Once in My Life” while The Four King Cousins’ delighted viewers with “Walk On By,” “Do You Believe in Magic,” “Happy Heart” and “I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love” amongst others. Alyce’s son Lex de Azevedo served as the series musical director and frequently performed in both “Cousins” and “Family” numbers. After the initial 13 week run, ABC re-aired the entire series throughout the summer 1969.
King Family would continue to develop and produce their own television specials
which were broadcast throughout the United States, Canada and Australia, adding
eight additional spectaculars to their syndicated offerings, thus bringing
their grand total collection of specials to seventeen by 1974.
| The King Sisters & The Four King Cousins
||The Four King Cousins
|| Marilyn King