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Happy Hearts: The Four King Cousins Return With “More Today Than Yesterday”

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Four King Cousins - More TodayIn those halcyon days of television variety, when ABC’s The Hollywood Palace rubbed shoulders with CBS’s The Ed Sullivan Show, it wasn’t hard to spot the music-making King Family.  After all, the ensemble was more than 30 members strong, consisting of big band sweethearts The King Sisters, guitarist Alvino Rey, and some 32 brothers, sisters, children, wives, aunts and uncles.  Following much-talked-about appearances on Hollywood Palace, The King Family went on to headline its own variety show for the network, first from January 1965 to January 1966, and then from March to September 1969.   The family also starred in 17 syndicated specials, guested on talk and game shows, and recorded a number of albums for Warner Bros. Records (reissued a few years back by the Collectors’ Choice label).  It wasn’t long before The Four King Cousins – daughters of The King Sisters – spun off from the larger unit.  Sisters Tina Cole (lead singer and star of television’s My Three Sons) and Cathy Cole Green, and their cousins Candy Conkling Brand and Carolyn Thomas Cameron, came into their own.  Today, the winsome quartet with the exquisitely sparkling harmonies is back together. A retrospective concert is scheduled for November 6 at Hollywood’s Catalina Jazz Club, and a new CD of never-before-released archival recordings, More Today Than Yesterday: Classic Songs of the ‘60s and ‘70s (Polly O. Entertainment, no cat. no., 2013) is now available.

The group actually began life as The Five King Cousins when they appeared on NBC’s summer version of the famous Kraft Music Hall in 1966, but when Jamie Conkling left the group to pursue her education, Five became Four.  In 1968, The Four King Cousins signed to Capitol Records, where The King Sisters had recorded memorable music a decade earlierIntroducing The Four King Cousins was produced, arranged and conducted by another King cousin – Lex de Azevedo, son of King Sister Alyce King Clarke.  His diverse credits included The Human Beinz, The Outsiders, and Laurindo Almeida, and for his cousins, he styled a soft-pop gem that compares favorably to the genre’s most enjoyable records.  That album found the Four King Cousins applying their smooth and bright four-part harmonies to breezily orchestrated songs from the contemporary songbook by Bacharach and David (“This Guy’s in Love with You,” “Walk On By”), Marvin Hamlisch and Howard Liebling (Lesley Gore’s hit “California Nights”), The Beatles (“Here, There and Everywhere,” “Good Day Sunshine”) and The Beach Boys (“God Only Knows”).  It may be most notable for including fine renditions of two songs composed by one of sunshine pop’s rightful high priests, Roger Nichols of Small Circle of Friends fame: “Love So Fine” with lyrics by Tony Asher and “I Fell” with lyrics by Paul Williams.

The cousins maintained a busy slate of television and live appearances including performances at Walt Disney World’s oft-remembered Top of the World nightspot, and recorded another album for the Japanese market in 1976 (The Way We Were, on the Playboy/Trio Records label).  But other than the now-out-of-print reissue of Introducing The Four King Cousins on Cherry Red’s él label in 2006 and a Japanese release from the same year, the group has been largely overlooked in the CD era.  That disc now commands high prices secondhand, but you can hear a number of songs from the same vintage on the new collection More Today Than Yesterday.

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Written by Joe Marchese

October 16, 2013 at 14:38