The Kelly Family

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The Kelly Family
Kelly Family 1989.jpg
Left to right: Jimmy, Patricia, Paddy, Kathy and John in 1989
Background information
Also known as The Kellys
Origin United States
Genres Pop, pop rock, folklore
Years active 1970–2008
Labels Kel-Life, EMI, BMG, Ariola, Polydor, Universal
Past members Dan Kelly
Barbara-Ann Kelly
Caroline Kelly
Paul Kelly
Kathy Kelly
Patricia Kelly
Jimmy Kelly
Johnny Kelly
Joey Kelly
Dee Dee Kelly
Tommy Kelly
Barby Kelly
Paddy Kelly
Maite Kelly
Angelo Kelly

The Kelly Family was an Irish-American-European music group consisting of a multi-generational family, who play a repertoire of rock, pop and folk music. They have had chart 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.

For many years, the group presented a gypsy image and a vagabonding lifestyle, travelling around Europe in a double-decker bus and houseboat. Their image was enhanced by their eclectic and often homemade clothing, and the very long hair worn by both male and female members of the band. In recent years, they have presented a more mainstream look.


The group had its origins in May 1965, when Daniel Kelly Sr. and his first wife, Joanne, left their native United States, with their children Daniel Jr., Caroline, Kathleen and Paul, and settled in Spain, where Daniel opened an antiques shop.[1] Kelly and Joanne separated, and Joanne returned to the US with Daniel Jr., who had a disability.[1] In 1970, Kelly married Barbara Ann Suokko. Daniel Kelly and Barbara had eight children, with the eldest, John, born in 1967, and the youngest, Angelo, in 1981. The children were homeschooled and given lessons in music and dance.

In 1974, the older children, Caroline, Kathy and Paul, formed The Kelly Kids, at first busking, then performing at parties and local events. They became well-known enough that they appeared on Spanish television in 1975.[2] The band was joined by the younger members of the family as they matured and learned to play musical instruments. The band's popularity increased in Spain, with several performances on television and in circuses. In 1976, they went on tour as The Kelly Family, in Italy, Germany and The Netherlands, followed by Ireland in 1977. Then, in 1978, they toured again, in their hallmark double-decker bus.[1] Daniel Kelly and Barbara joined the children for performances, Barbara often performing with a baby in her arms.

In 1977, they landed a record contract in Germany. Their first major chart hit came in 1980, with the song "Who'll Come With Me (David's Song)", with John Kelly, aged 12, singing the solo. The song, with a Gaelic melody by Vladimir Cosma, was the theme to a German television production The Adventures of David Balfour, based on Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. The song hit number 1 in the Netherlands and Belgium, and it reached the top 20 in Germany.

Barbara Kelly died of breast cancer in 1982, shortly after the birth of the youngest child, Angelo. Her last words to her family were "Keep on singing!"[1] The band continued to record, Daniel Kelly having formed his own recording company in 1980. As the older members of the family reached adulthood, Caroline and Paul left the band, Caroline to study nursing and Paul to become a chef. In 1990, Daniel Kelly suffered a stroke, but he remained a leading figure in the group until his death in 2002.

The Kelly Family continued recording and performing, covering famous songs such as "We are the World" and "The Rose", but writing most of their own music based on family and personal experience, their Catholic faith and their worldview. Songs include "Santa Maria"; "Why, Why, Why"; "An Angel", the video of which popularized a younger family member Paddy; "Break Free", sung by Barby; the haunting "Mama", in which Barbara Kelly is remembered by her children; and "The Pee Pee Song", in which the common childhood problem of bedwetting is portrayed by the raucous, flaxen haired baby-of-the-family Angelo.

In the 1990s, the group enjoyed their biggest success. Their 1994 album Over the Hump sold more than 2.25 million copies in Germany alone, and 4.5 million copies throughout Europe. In 1995, to promote the album, they played a concert to a Vienna audience of 250,000. In the same year they filled the Westfalenhalle, Dortmund, nine times in a row, a feat no other musician has since accomplished. In 1996 they headlined their first Stadium Tour, filling some of Europe's largest venues. They played in Beijing, China in front of 20,000 people. In 1998 they bought a castle, Schloss Gymnich, on the Erft near Cologne, Germany. About the same time, Adam Kelly, son of Papa Kelly’s younger brother Henry, started performing with his cousins in The Kelly Family.[1] Success continued until they started to disagree on a professional basis at the beginning of the year 2000. In 2002 Papa Kelly died from yet another stroke. That same year the family competed in the German Eurovision Song Contest with the song of Maite Kelly "I wanna be loved" and placed fourth.

In 2002, Barby's ongoing illness forced her retirement from the band and, to the disappointment of his fans, Paddy cut his long hair and joined a religious order in France. Members of the family continue to perform as soloists or together, or in combination with their partners, as both Jimmy and John married singers. Fan interest prompted a comeback with gigs in Germany in 2007.


Name Birth Birthplace Notes
Daniel Jerome ("Dan") 11 October 1930 Erie, Pennsylvania, USA Father and leader of the Kelly Family. Died, 5 August 2002, Cologne, Germany[3]
Barbara Ann 2 June 1946 "Mama" of the Kelly Family. Died, 10 November 1982, Belascoain, Spain[3]
Caroline 1962 USA Performed with the Kelly Kids; works as a nurse in the USA, is married, no children
Kathleen Ann ("Kathy") 6 March 1963 Leominster, Massachusetts, USA Tours with Kelly Family, gives solo concerts. Divorced with one son, Sean
Paul 16 March 1964 Leominster, Massachusetts, USA One of the Kelly Kids, rejoined Kelly Family. Married to Muriel, six sons Clement, Coco (Sean), Patrick, Yannick, Daniel, Michael. and a daughter Brenda.
John Michael ("Johnny") 8 March 1967 Talavera de la Reina, Spain Married to Maite (née Itoiz, b. 27 January 1975), no children.
Maria Patricia ("Patricia") 25 November 1969 Gamonal, Spain Married to Denis Sawinkin (b. 19 February 1973), two sons Alexander Joseph and Ignatius Aaron Maria
James Victor ("Jimmy") 18 February 1971 Gamonal, Spain Married to Maike (née Höchst, b. 3 November 1980), two daughters Aimee Benedicta Maria and Máire Therese Seraphine and son Yeshua Fulton James.
Joseph Maria ("Joey") 20 December 1972 Toledo, Spain Married to Tanja (née Niethen, b. 25 January 1973), has two sons Luke Christopher and Leon Daniel and two daughters Lilian Ann and Lisann.
Barbara Ann ("Barby") 28 April 1975 Belascoáin, Spain Left the band in 2002, due to illness; later rejoined.
Michael Patrick ("Paddy") 5 December 1977 Dublin, Ireland Left band in early 2004,[4] to study theology. He joined the Saint-John community where he was a monk, and took the name John Paul Mary. He recently quit the monastery and by late 2011 had returned to music-making. On 13 April 2013 Paddy married Joelle Vereet at Ballintubber Abbey in Ireland.[5]
Maite Star 4 December 1979 West Berlin Married to Florent Raimond (b. 5 January 1975), has three daughters Agnes Therese Barbara, Josephine Katherine Francoise and Solene.
Angelo Kelly 23 December 1981 Pamplona, Spain Married to Kira (née Harms, b. 7 October 1979), has three sons and two daughters: Gabriel Jerome, Helen Josephine, Emma Maria, Joseph Ewan Gregory Walter and William Emanuel[6]


For the solo recordings of the individual members please see Solo Recordings.



  1. ^ a b c d e Kelly Family Biography at
  2. ^ Kelly Family Biography Archived 18 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ a b Neue Seite 1. Retrieved on 2010-10-23.
  4. ^ Kelly Family information at a Geocities webpage (archived)
  5. ^ Paddy Kelly's website, (retrieved 3-6-2013)
  6. ^ News from Angelo. | (2010-09-22). Retrieved on 2010-10-23.


  • Peter Wendling, Die Kelly Family, die Geschichte einer Supergruppe, Goldmann 1995 (German Book)
  • Lisa Reinhard, Die Kelly Family und ihre Erfolge, Heyne 1995 (German Book)

External links[edit]