The Kim Sisters

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The Kim Sisters with Dean Martin
(L to R: Mia, Aija, Sue)

The Kim Sisters[1][2] was a South Korean female trio who made their career in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. They were the two sisters Sue (Sook-ja) and Aija (Ai-ja) and a third member, cousin Mia (Minja) Kim.[3] Sue and Aija were two of seven children of Kim Hae-song, a popular music conductor, and Lee Nan-young, one of Korea's most famous singers before the Korean War, perhaps best known for "the Tears of Mokpo." Mia's father was Lee Bong-ryong, a musician as well.

The sisters arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1959 and first performed at the Thunderbird Hotel, where producer Tom Ball did a show with Asian artists. Their successful performances at the Thunderbird led them to the Stardust where Ed Sullivan saw the trio and invited the sisters to perform on his show. The sisters performed on The Ed Sullivan Show more than 22 times.


Starting in 1953, with their mother's/aunt's encouragement and to support their family after they lost everything during a bombing, the sisters sang Hoagy Carmichael's Country-Western tune "Ole Buttermilk Sky" and "Candy and Coke" to the troops who would donate rock and roll records for the sisters to memorize. The sisters received chocolate bars and beer which were then exchanged for food. The GIs that returned to the States spread word about the talented trio. In Los Angeles, Tom Ball (who became the Kim Sisters' manager) heard about the sisters from one of the returning GIs. Ball went to Korea to see the sisters and secured a contract through the Kim's mother. Before departing Korea, their mother advised them to learn to play instruments. They arrived in Los Angeles and drove to Las Vegas and lived in a one bedroom apartment across from the Sahara Hotel. After fulfilling their contract at the Thunderbird, the entertainment director for the Stardust Hotel picked up their option. In the eighth month at the Stardust, Ed Sullivan watched the sisters performance and requested them to appear on his show.

Years from them arriving in America had passed and the sisters had tried and tried to obtain a visa for their mother to travel to America. With the help of Ed Sullivan, who knew of their mother's fame in Korea, Lee Nan-young arrived in the fourth year. One condition of Sullivan's assistance in obtaining the visa for the sister's mother was that she appear too on the Ed Sullivan Show. In 1967 all three girls were married, Mia to Tommy Vig, a Hungarian-born music prodigy and jazz percussionist. He played in the same hotel as the girls. The trio broke up when Mia moved to Los Angeles with her husband and became a full-time mother. Ai-ja and Sook-ja continued performing with their brothers in the group The Kim Brothers. Ai-ja died in 1987 from lung cancer; Mia moved to Budapest in 2006.

KIM SISTERS Harbor Lights/Ching Chang (USA) Epic 5-9312 (May 1959 - 7 inch 45 rpm single) The first Kim Sisters record released.


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