Marilyn King, songstress, actress and last surviving member of Grammy-nominated jazz group the King Sisters, died Wednesday in Laguna Niguel, Calif., surrounded by her family after fighting cancer. She was 82.
King had been the youngest of her sisters.
The King Sisters were founded in 1931 and went on to influence jazz music for decades. King started subbing for her sisters at the age of 13 and officially joined the troupe, made up of sisters Donna, Yvonne, Alyce and Luise, in 1951.
The group’s album “Imagination,” which they recorded with Luise’s husband Alvino Rey, was released through Capitol and drew a Grammy nomination in 1959. They also recorded for other labels, including Blue Bird, RCA Victor and Warner Bros., and released over 150 records over the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. They were also featured with the Alvino Rey Orchestra.
The sisters were also known for their 1960s variety show, ABC’s “The King Family Show,” where they appeared with their families. They headlined 17 syndicated holiday specials throughout the ’60s and ’70s. The sisters toured across the country for more than four decades; one of their last performances together was at the second inauguration of President Ronald Reagan in 1985.
Marilyn King was also a composer and lyricist, contributing songs “The Thrill Was New” and “Hawaii Is Calling Me” to the King Sisters’ musical repertoire. She was noted for her jazz solos and comedic talents, especially when paired with her older and much shorter sister, Yvonne.
King was also an actress, appearing in stage productions of “Guys and Dolls” and “Hello, Dolly.” On television, she was a regular on Rey’s “Ford Time” and appeared on “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet,” “Laugh-In,” “MASH,” “The Hollywood Palace” and “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Notably, she lent her vocal talents on the bigscreen to Oscar winner “The Sound of Music.”
King continued to perform in concert until 2010. She made her last television appearance in 2009, on the PBS musical retrospective “Christmas With the King Family.”
She is survived by three children and seven grandchildren and is great-aunt to Win and Will Butler of Grammy-winning Arcade Fire. Funeral activities will be held at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills. Donations may be made to the Society Singers, Sherman Oaks, with which King was long involved with.