*The 80s family band The Jets were comprised of five brothers and three sisters of Polynesian descent, and the teenagers drew inspiration from Prince.
The group took the R&B and Pop charts by storm with hits like “Crush on You,” “You Got it All,” and “Make it Real.” But the band’s spotlight faded by their early 20s. The group’s lead singer left after she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 21, and the other siblings gradually drifted apart.
As reported by I Love Old School Music, one of The Jets’ members, Moana Wolfgramm, previously explained in an interview with Classic Bands that the siblings faced some hardships after their fame ended up and they had to work “humiliating” jobs to makes ends meet.
Below are excerpts from Moana’s interview.
How The Jets Became Broke After Massive Music Success
Moana: “We were signed I believe to his [their then manager, Don Powell’s] production deal. He had a company called Twin Town Sounds and he signed us to that. Then the record company signed that production company. I’m learning all this now that I’m older, but when you’re eleven, you have no idea what’s going on. We worked hundreds of shows every year. It was later on that you realized the good and bad that came from it.”
On Their Parents’ Trusting Wrong People In The Music Game, Thus Getting Mistreated
“I don’t think my parents stayed on top of it. I wish they would have. I think they were kind of caught up in the whole excitement of it, trusting him that they didn’t ask any questions. It was when the money ran out… It took a long time for my parents to convince our manager we needed a house. We’d been working so hard, we’d been renting. …We finally bought a home for the family. Not even a few years after that, people kept thinking; You guys are making so much money. You’re working all the time. You’re on tour. And we weren’t really seeing anything. We were still a family of seventeen. The Jets make up the eight oldest of a family of seventeen children. We weren’t living in these big cribs and had all these cars. We had two, fifteen-passenger vans, a bigger home that we could finally call our home. It wasn’t anything extravagant, considering what we were making at the time. But the questions weren’t asked until it was too late.”
“Humiliating” Jobs & “Bitterness” After Fame
Moana: “For awhile, believe me, we were all really bitter. We were all really hurt by it because we were young. By the time our career was over…we were all in our late teens, early twenties. We had to go work in clubs and bars again. It was really humiliating for us to go back into casinos and get paid peanuts. We didn’t know anybody in the business. It was like they moved on. “The Jets? That’s old news. We’ve got New Kids On The Block. We don’t need this little group.”
“So, we were pretty much kicked to the curb. We started doing a few USO tours and then it started to hit us as a family. We fought a lot. We struggled on the road. None of us had a real education. It was like we all had G.E.D.s, education equivalent. None of us had gone to college. So, we really got tripped up…and then we were back in Minneapolis, just working the clubs.”
“It was very humiliating for a long time. We were bitter at our manager and just how everything went down. We all kind of walked away from the business. […] It was embarrassing to go back to our people thinking that we’re these big, rich, famous people and we’re trying to get work. That part really sucked.
The Extreme Tension It Caused Within Their Family
Moana: “For a long time I didn’t speak to my family. … We never were estranged from our family and our parents, but this business really did a number… Luckily, we all are still very religious in our beliefs and we believe in our family and we all have children now. That alone I think kind of kept us together. … Among all of us children, my parents have fifty-three grandchildren. It just wasn’t worth it for us to be bitter for that long.”
In 2019, TV One’s award-winning documentary series “Unsung” relived the journey of The Jets, noting in a press release that “..the family members are still making music, but have split into two bands due to personal differences. Despite the split, the members are still entertaining audiences with music that initially captured their fans’ hearts.”