The Kelly Family

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The Kelly Family
Left to right: Jimmy, Patricia, Paddy, Kathy and John Kelly in 1989
Left to right: Jimmy, Patricia, Paddy, Kathy and John Kelly in 1989
Background information
GenresPop, rock, folklore
Years active1974–2008, 2017–present
LabelsKel-Life, EMI, BMG, Ariola, Polydor, Universal
MembersKathy Kelly
Patricia Kelly
John Kelly
Joey Kelly
Jimmy Kelly
Paul Kelly
Past membersPapa Dan Kelly
Mama Barbara-Ann Kelly
Daniel Kelly
Caroline Kelly
Paddy Kelly
Barby Kelly
Maite Kelly
Angelo Kelly
Adam Kelly

The Kelly Family is a European-American music group consisting of a multi-generational family, usually nine siblings who were joined occasionally on stage in their earlier years by their parents. They play a repertoire of rock, pop, and folk music, and sing in English, Spanish, German, and Basque. The group had chart and concert success around the world, predominantly in continental Europe - mainly in Germany, the Benelux countries, Scandinavia, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, and Portugal - and some in Ireland. They have sold over 20 million albums since the early 1980s and were ranked as the 6th most popular music act in Germany in the 1990s.[1] Despite their American origins, the group is virtually unknown in the United States.[2]

For many years, the group presented a ragamuffin 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. The Kelly Family began to break up in 2000 and afterwards they performed mostly as individuals or sub-sets of the whole group and took on a more mainstream look.

The Kelly Kids[edit]

The patriarch of the family, Daniel Kelly Sr., has been described as a "grizzled, ageing druid aesthetic", but according to his daughter Kathy he was in earlier days "a clean-cut, intense conservative Catholic" who studied for the priesthood. He married his first wife, Joanne, in 1957, and the couple left their native America in 1965 with their children Daniel Jr., Caroline, Kathleen and Paul, and settled in Spain, where Daniel opened an antiques shop.[citation needed]

Daniel Kelly and Joanne separated, and Joanne returned to America with Daniel Jr., who had a disability.[citation needed] In 1970, Kelly married Barbara Ann Suokko (1946–1982), who was from Fitchburg, Massachusetts and of Finnish and Austrian heritage.[3] Daniel and Barbara had eight children, with the eldest, John, born in 1967, and the youngest, Angelo [de], in 1981. The children were homeschooled and given lessons in music and dance.

In 1974, the older children, Caroline, Daniel, 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.[4] The band was joined by the younger members of the family as they grew up 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, West Germany and the Netherlands. Their money was stolen during the tour and, penniless, they had to busk on the streets to earn enough for the return trip home.[2]

The family moved to Ireland, living at a campground and touring there in 1977. Then, in 1978, they toured again in their double-decker bus.[citation needed] (They later lived on a large houseboat.)[2] Daniel and Barbara Kelly joined their children for performances, Barbara often performing with a newborn in her arms.

In 1977, they secured a record contract in West Germany. Their first major chart hit came in 1980, with the song "Who'll Come With Me (David's Song)",[5] with John Kelly, aged 12, singing the solo. The song, with a Gaelic sounding melody by Vladimir Cosma, was the theme to a West German television production The Adventures of David Balfour, based on Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. The song hit #1 in the Netherlands and Belgium, and it reached the top 20 in West Germany.


The Kelly Family in 2002

The Kelly Family covered hit songs such as "We are the World" and "The Rose", but wrote 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 Kelly; the haunting "Mama", in which Barbara Kelly is remembered by her children; and "The Pee Pee Song", in which the common childhood issue 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.[citation needed] 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 pre-selections 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 her fans, Paddy cut his long hair and joined a religious order in France. Members of the family continued 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.

In 2011, the 12 Kelly siblings were reported as living in Ireland, Germany, the United States, Spain, and Belgium.[6]

Controversies and issues[edit]

The Kelly Family has faced criticism and problems. Although singing predominantly in English, the group had little success in the English-speaking world and aroused the derision of critics. Der Spiegel called them a "singing second-hand clothes collection" and Die Zeit called them a cult.[2][7]

The father, Daniel Kelly, was described, allegedly by his children, as having a "tyrannical, controlling streak".[citation needed] The most outspoken sibling, Jimmy, has criticized his father for not giving his children a formal education and imposing on them a "Huckleberry Finn" lifestyle. Moreover, he explained that as The Kelly Family group began to dissolve, there was almost nothing left of the millions of dollars the family had earned.[citation needed] The oldest daughter, Kathy, who managed most of the finances of the family, said that Daniel was more "free spirit than tyrant" but that "we got too big too fast, we should have cut things down some or handed over to professional management."[2]

Dan Kelly taught his children to "always keep independent of the structures of the modern entertainment industry."[7] He formed his own record label and "the Kellys kept everything in the family, from copyright and bookings to promotion and money matters."[7]

The Kellys ran into tax issues in Germany, the "Dan Kelly Foundation" was discovered not to be a registered charity, and they were criticized for their lack of transparency in accounting for money raised for an AIDS charity.[7]

In 2021, Angelo was fined €3,000 by German authorities after his son William performed briefly with him on-stage at an evening concert, in contravention of German labour laws which prohibit children aged under 7 from performing outside the hours of 08:00 to 17:00.[8]


Name Birth Death (age at the time of death) Birthplace Notes
Daniel Jerome Sr. ("Dan") 11 October 1930 August 5 2002 (71 years) Erie, Pennsylvania, US Father and leader of the Kelly Family. Died, 5 August 2002, Cologne, Germany[9]
Janice M Quint ("Joanne") 1 July 1935 December 2018 (83 years) Peabody, Massachusetts US
Barbara Ann 2 June 1946 November 10 1982 (36 years) Fitchburg, Massachusetts US "Mama" of the Kelly Family. Eight children with Dan. Died of cancer, November 10th 1982, Belascoain, Spain[9]
Daniel Jerome Jr. ("Danny") 2 July 1958 2017 (58 years) Chur, Graubünden Switzerland
Caroline 20 July 1959 Leominster Massachusetts, US
Kathleen Ann ("Kathy") 6 March 1961 Leominster, Massachusetts, US
Paul 16 March 1964 Leominster, Massachusetts, US
John Michael ("John") 8 March 1967 Talavera de la Reina, Spain
Maria Patricia ("Patricia") 25 November 1969 Gamonal, Spain
James Victor ("Jimmy") 18 February 1971 Gamonal, Spain
Joseph Maria ("Joey") 20 December 1972 Toledo, Spain
Barbara Ann ("Barby") 28 April 1975 April 15 2021 (45 years) Belascoáin, Spain Named after her mother. Left the band in 2002, due to illness; later rejoined (studio albums only). Died 15 April 2021.[10]
Michael Patrick ("Paddy") 5 December 1977 Dublin, Ireland He joined the Saint-John community where he was a monk, and took the name John Paul Mary. He later 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.[11]
Maite Star 4 December 1979 West Berlin
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[12] Left in 2020 to concentrate on his family band, Angelo Kelly & Family



For the solo recordings of the individual members, see Solo recordings.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Year Nominee(s) Category Result Ref.
Žebřík Music Awards
(Czech music magazine poll)
1996 The Kelly Family Best International Band Won [13]
1997 Nominated [14]
1998 Nominated


  1. ^ (, Deutsche Welle. "PopXport Ranking: The Top 10 music acts of the 90s from Germany | PopXport | DW.COM | 9 December 2016". DW.COM. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Keeping it Kelly". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  3. ^ "Mama and Papa Kelly... Barbara and Dan Kelly". ~ Always The Kelly Family ~. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
  4. ^ "The Kelly Family – Biografie". 18 September 2007. Archived from the original on 18 September 2007. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  5. ^ The song was at first issued in the Netherlands as "David's Song (Who'll Come With Me)". In the UK and Ireland the song was issued as "Who'll Come With Me (David's Song)" instead, in contrast to its issue elsewhere. Source:
  6. ^ "Bio Angelo". ~ Always The Kelly Family ~. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d "The man who turned his musical children into recording sensations". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  8. ^ "Singer hit with child labour fine after son joins him on stage during concert".
  9. ^ a b "The Kelly Family / The Kelly Kids". Archived from the original on 6 February 2013. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  10. ^ Trauer bei der Kelly Family: Barby Kelly ist 45-jährig verstorben. Tagblatt. Retrieved 20 April 2021. (in German)
  11. ^ Paddy Kelly's website, (retrieved 3 June 2013)
  12. ^ News from Angelo. | Archived 18 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. (22 September 2010). Retrieved on 2010-10-23.
  13. ^ "1996-1992 – Anketa Žebřík".
  14. ^ "2003-1997 – Anketa Žebřík".


  • 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]