Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: The King Cousins (1965)

It's time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

For those of you who merely assumed that “The King Family” was a reference to the fifteen children from roughly a dozen women of bluesman B B King, you're not even close. They were actually a multi-talented (or at least energetic) extended family which grew out of a 1940s big-band-girl-singers quartet known as The King Sisters. Their musical variety show ran on ABC from January 1965 to January 1966, and again from March to September 1969. In 1965, rock and roll was the siren song of depravity in the Alexander house, so the closest we ever got to depravity that year, was the show segment known as "The Top Twenty," performed by what were known as "The King Cousins."

Leading the hit parade is a sanitized version of Roger Miller's "King of the Road." Leaving out references to cigarettes was probably less a Mormon thing -- you mean you couldn't tell? -- as it was a network standards and practices thing. Although still debatable at the time whether cigarettes caused cancer, with teenagers it definitely led to all manner of wickedness. Then there was some kid named Jon, who usually appeared with the little cousins for the occasional canned laughter at being so adorable, yet who appears a little over his head with the big girls in "The Birds and the Bees." (That's right, his voice hasn't changed yet. Adorable.)

The personal favorite of yours truly was Xan, shown here leading Ray and Jon in "The Freddie," partly because she was really cute in a quirky, nerdish sort of way, but also because her name was so awesome. She was the daughter of King Sister Donna, and cousin of Tina Cole (featured in "Downtown") who played Katie on "My Three Sons." (The one who married one of the Sons, remember?) A former child actress ("The Hideous Sun Demon" 1959), Donna Alexandra (shortened to "Xandra" or "Xan") Conkling Albright went on to co-produce The King Family Cookbook, and except for occasional PBS specials, was (sigh!) never heard from again.

Be that as it may, this beats the hell out of Donny and Marie, don't you think?

Or don't you?

FOOTNOTE: Two grandsons of King Sister Luise, namely Win and William Butler, are lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, respectively, for the Montreal-based indie rock band Arcade Fire. Not too shabby.

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