Obituary for Sally Susanmae King
On August 24, 2016 in Oak Harbor, Washington, the world lost one of the great big band singers of the 20th century, and my family said goodbye to a loving and devoted mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, Sally Susanmae King..
Sally Lang was born on November 18, 1924 to Susan and Albert Lang of McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Her exceptional career as a big band singer began before she had even finished high school, performing with her brother Bobby Lang and winning local talent shows in her early teens. After high school, Sally joined the Jack Teagarden Orchestra, before traveling the U.S. with the Army Corps at the onset of WWII. It was also during this time that Bob Hope hand-selected Sally to appear on a live broadcast of his radio show, and she was hired to perform with the great Johnny “Scat” Davis.
While living and working in Chicago in 1947, Sally met her future husband and the love of her life, Robert Terrence “Terry” King. Terry was a saxophonist and soon found himself playing venues in Seattle, where he persuaded Sally to join him, and in 1950 they were married. In 1953 they welcomed daughter Robin Sue King into their lives in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where they were living while Terry was bandleader and Sally vocalist of the U.S. Army Band. Shortly after Robin was born they moved back to Seattle and met Sammy Davis Jr., who was a good friend for many years, and Sally became a regular performer on local television stations.
In 1962, Sally was a featured vocalist when The Max Pillar Orchestra performed opening night at the Space Needle at the launch of the 1962 World’s Fair. In 1970 Sally and Terry divorced, but they remained best friends for life. Sally moved to St. Louis where she performed with Marty Bronson and various other bands, as well as having the great honor of performing with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. In 1984, Sally moved back to Seattle where she continued to perform her mix of traditional and Dixieland-style jazz, most recently with the Goodtime Jazzabouts.
Those of us in her family experienced glimpses of Sally’s life of fame, and marvelled at her pictures and stories of all the stars she crossed paths with. To us though, she was always Mom or Grandma Sally, who never missed a family holiday, and whose joyful personality and quick wit left a lasting impression on all of us. Grandma Sally was a constant presence of song and laughter in our family, and we are forever grateful to have been a part of her incredible life.
Sally is survived by her daughter Robin Sue King of Greenbank, Washington; granddaughter Lindsay Christine Cox (husband Ryan Cox) and great-grandsons Caiden Jeffrey Cox and Hudson James Cox of Mill Creek, Washington; grandson Benjamin Terrence Kortlever (wife Candice Joy Kortlever) and great-granddaughter Arden Brie Kortlever of Melbourne, Australia; and granddaughter Saralyn Rose Kortlever and great-grandson Amare Terrence Atkins of Oak Harbor, Washington.
A private family service will be held at a later date. Family and friends are encouraged to share memories and condolences at www.whidbeymemorial.com.