The musical family that sold 20 million albums worldwide
The Kelly Family are huge in Europe, but that doesn’t make them any less bizarre. This Irish-American family is a multi-generational group of entertaners that perform a repertoire of rock, pop and folk music.
The Kelly family started their musical career approximately 45 years ago, after patriarch Daniel Kelly Sr. moved his family from the US to Spain. He soon separated from his first wife who moved back to the States with the oldest of their four children. Daniel, left behind with three of the children from his first marriage, met and married Barbara Ann Suokko in 1970, and 8 more kids were added to their brood. From there, this unique musical family was formed.
The band presented a gypsy image and a vagabonding lifestyle, traveling around Europe in a double-decker bus and houseboat. Their image was also enhanced by their eclectic and often homemade clothing, and the very long hair worn by both male and female members of the band. With a series of hits and concert success in Europe and other parts of the world, (especially in Germany, the Benelux countries, Scandinavia, Poland, Spain and Portugal) they have sold over 20 million albums since the early 1980s.
As the children grew, they presented a more mainstream look and remained chart toppers until the band’s demise in 2002 (Daniel, Sr. died that same year.) Fan interest prompted a comeback with gigs in Germany in 2007, and some siblings still perform as soloists or together, or in combination with their partners.
Check out what must be the weirdest hit by anyone anywhere as the Kelly Family tackle a serious subject – the common childhood problem of bedwetting.
(Source | Photo)
The musical triplets who found fame later in life
The Del Rubio triplets (Edith, Elena and Mildred) found real fame while in their 60s. With an offbeat repertoire of more than 1,000 songs – from Nat King Cole to the Rolling Stones to Devo – the triplets delighted audiences as they performed wearing miniskirts, low-cut tops and go-go boots, while strumming well-worn acoustic guitars.
Born as the Boyd triplets in the Panama Canal Zone in 1921, they were distantly related to a President Woodrow Wilson by way of his wife and their great aunt, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson. The ladies started performing in the 1950s in night clubs and on television, but didn’t really blow up until 1985, when they were rediscovered by Grammy winning songwriter Allee Willis. Soon after, they made appearances on Married… with Children, Full House, The Golden Girls, Night Court, Ellen and Pee-wee’s Playhouse. They were even featured in a commercial for McDonalds.
The Del Rubio triplets performed until Edith was diagnosed with cancer in 1996. After her death, the remaining sisters never performed again – Elena died of cancer in 2001 and Milly died from respiratory failure July 21, 2011. (Source | Photo)
The family that has been performing as a traveling circus troupe since 1780
As far back as 1780, the Wallenda clan has been a traveling circus troupe consisting
of acrobats, jugglers, clowns, aerialists and animal trainers. In the late 1800s, and for the next two generations, they became known for their expertise in the art of the flying trapeze.
Born in Magdeburg, Germany in 1905, Karl Wallenda was an expert aerialist who began performing in the family show at age six and doing stunts in beer halls at age eleven. By 1922, he recruited additional family members to join him in his act including his brother Herman, and Helen Kreis, who would eventually become Karl’s wife.
They toured Europe for several years and featured an amazing 4-person, 3-level pyramid balanced on a high-wire. This act was such a sensation that when John Ringling saw them performing in Cuba, he immediately contracted them to appear with the “Greatest Show On Earth.”
The Wallendas were headliners with Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus for much of the 1930s and 1940s. Soon, Karl built a circus of his own and despite a few mishaps (in 1962, while performing at the State Fair Coliseum in Detroit, the front man on the wire faltered, causing injury to the others) the Wallendas always insisted “the show must go on.”
As Karl got older, he performed with a smaller troupe and became increasingly popular doing “Sky Walks,” walking between buildings and across stadiums, including Busch, Veterans, JFK, 3 Rivers Stadiums and the Astrodome, among others. Tragedy struck on one of the walks however, when in 1978, Karl fell to his death at age 73.
The Wallendas have continued the tradition of tightrope walking. Nik Wallenda, Karl’s grandson is a 7th generation aerialist who made a record-breaking walk over Niagara Falls, from the U.S. into Canada, in 2012. Recently, he successfully walked between skyscrapers on high wires suspended hundreds of feet above downtown Chicago, accomplishing the historic feat without a harness or a safety net — and in one case blindfolded.
Watch his harrowing walk in Chicago below:
(Source 1 | Source 2 | Photo)
The siblings who appeared in “The Wizard Of Oz”
If you’re a fan of Tod Browning’s 1932 cult classic Freaks, you are likely already familiar with two of the four members of the Doll family, Harry and Daisy Earles.
The German-born Earles’ (whose birth name was Schindler; after their manager’s death in the early 1930s, the family changed its name to Doll) were a quartet of dwarf siblings who were popular circus sideshow and film performers from the 1920 to the 1950s.
Harry was the most successful of the group. He began his career in silent films with the legendary “Man of a Thousand Faces”, Lon Chaney in The Unholy Three in which he plays a con-man posing as a baby. He then moved onto Freaks with sister Daisy before all four starred in The Wizard of Oz as citizens of Munchkinland. The ladies filled various roles as Munchkin maidens, but Harry had a larger role as a member of the Lollipop Guild.
The family returned to circus performing after their film career and retired to Sarasota, Florida by the 1950s. The Dolls were a close-knit family who always lived, ate, and worked together until their deaths. Tiny was the last survivor; she died in 2004 after a long illness and many years of living alone after Harry’s death in 1985.
The family of blind musicians who toured for over 50 years
Not much is known about the Hostetler Blind Family, but we do know that this quartet of sibling performers was active in the latter half of the nineteenth century in and around the area of Fayette County, Pennsylvania.
Catherine, Samuel (a.k.a. Jesse Samuel or, sometimes, Samuel Jesse), Bartholomew, and John were the children of Daniel Hostetler and Mary (Gibbons) Hostetler, who were first cousins.
The family toured through several states (and possibly Europe) from around 1856 to 1907. A concert review from July 8, 1972, shows at least one of the band members was well versed in playing corn cobs: “The sister has a soft musical voice, and accompanies her brothers in the use alternately of a triangle, an accordion, and a pair of corn cobs. Few perhaps, have thought that music could be brought out of corn cobs. But let those who think they know all about what corn cobs are for, go and see and hear what use this blind musician can make of a pair of corn cobs she carries with her.” (Source | Photo)
The family of entertainers who survived Auschwitz intact
The Ovitz family, the largest family of dwarves ever recorded, were also the largest family to survive intact after being imprisoned in Auschwitz.
The family hailed from Maramureş County, Romania and were descendants of Shimson Eizik Ovitz (1868–1923), a badchan entertainer, rabbi and also a dwarf. He fathered ten children in total, seven of them dwarfs.
The children formed an ensemble called the Lilliput Troupe. They sang and played all their own instruments and performed all over eastern Europe until 1944 when they were taken to Auschwitz.
Once in the camp, Doctor Josef Mengele subjected the family to all sorts of horrific experimentation. They were blinded, had bone marrow painfully extracted, and teeth removed. Mengele also displayed the family to groups of Nazis to lecture on inferior genetics.
They endured seven months of Mengele’s tortuous experiments before being liberated on January 27, 1945. Three months after emigrating to Israel in May 1949, the Lilliput Troupe was back on stage before retiring for good in 1955. Many of the family lived well into their 90s.
(Source | Photo)
The contortionist sisters who went viral 70 years after their film debut
Some of you may have seen a video of three female siblings from the 1940s hawking the pleasures of potato salad making the rounds over certain social media sites. The Ross sisters, Aggie Ross, Elmira Ross, and Maggie Ross (aka Veda Victoria, Dixie Jewel, and Betsy Ann Ross), were singers who possessed additional incredible talents in acrobats and contortionism, but their career was short lived.
Despite their talents, the girls only appeared in one film, Broadway Rhythm, in 1944, and onstage in a London play called Piccadilly Hayride. All three girls married and faded from the spotlight by the 1950s.
Check out their song in Broadway Rhythm, “Solid Potato Salad,” and prepare to be amazed at 2:25 in! (Source | Photo)
The quintuplet siblings who became a tourist attraction for Canada
The Dionne quintuplets were not in the public eye of their own volition. Born in 1934, the quints became a tourist attraction almost immediately after their birth. About 3,000 visitors were passing daily through the “Quintland” hospital compound where the sisters were being cared for, bringing in an estimated three million tourists between 1934 and 1943. Even Hollywood exploited their fame, and four movies were made about them in the 1930s — all with happy endings.
In reality, however, their lives were much different. On May 27, 1935, the government of Ontario took the five sisters away from their parents, after their father, Oliva, signed a contract with promoters to exhibit the girls at the World’s Fair in Chicago. Although Oliva tried to cancel the contract a day after he signed it, the authorities stepped in anyway, saying it was taking over for the good of the quints and would protect them from germs, potential kidnappers, and exploitation. But exploited they were – Quintland brought in as much as $500 million to the Ontario province in less than a decade.
The girls were used in all kinds of advertisements, including those for Madame Alexander dolls, Quaker oats, Palmolive liquids, Bee Hive golden syrup, toothpaste and war bonds. A souvenir store featuring items with the girl’s likenesses even kept the province of Ontario from going bankrupt.
When the girls were nine their parents won custody of them, but their home life was worse than what they experienced at Quintland. In their book We Were Five, they described their mother as controlling and their father as tyrannical: “Who could ever count the times we heard, ‘We were better off before you were born, and we’d be better off without you now?'”
As soon as they turned 18, the quints broke off all ties with their family. They married and divorced and two died fairly young – one in 1954 and another in 1970. Despite the millions that were made off of them, they were left with little as adults. Three surviving sisters lived together in Quebec on a combined income of just $748 a month.
In 1998, the remaining Dionnes asked the Canadian government to compensate them for the trust fund money that had been lost or taken. The government offered $2000 a month for the three women, but after a public outcry, a $4 million settlement was reached. (Source | Photo)