Donna King Conkling, one of the original four King Sisters who gained fame as a singing act in the 1930s and 1940s, and who appeared on a weekly national ABC show “The King Family” in the 1960s, died of natural causes in Plano, Texas on June 20. She was 88.
King Conkling was married to James Conkling, first president of Warner Bros. Records who became first chairman of the Grammy Awards and died in 1998.
Born Donna Olivia Driggs in the tiny Mormon farming community of Sanford, Colo., she accompanied her parents who traveled with their eight children performing at various local concerts.
Her sisters began singing as a trio on local radio station KSL in Salt Lake City and four of the six sisters joined Horace Heidt’s orchestra with then future brother-in-law, pioneering steel guitarist, Alvino Rey.
In the late 1930s they left Heidt, so that Rey could form his own orchestra with the King Sisters. The girls sang with his band until 1943, with hits including a vocal version of the Glenn Miller song “In the Mood.” The 1941 tune “Nighty Night” became the band’s theme song.
The sisters also worked throughout the ‘40s, including “Sing Your Worries Away” starring Buddy Ebsen, “Meet the People” starring Lucille Ball and Dick Powell, and “Cuban Pete” starring Desi Arnaz.
After leaving the group in 1951 to accompany her husband to New York and raise her children, she returned to appear with her siblings and other family members on the King Family television show in the mid- and late 1960s. The show led to a renewal of interest in the group.
She is survived by three sisters, five children, 23 grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren.