TAMPA — The coronavirus pandemic canceled months of scheduled gigs for Colt Clark. But the Tampa musician didn’t stop playing when the world slowed in mid-March. In fact, it gave him an opportunity to spend more time teaching songs to his children.
Turns out his three kids had inherited his musical talents. So at the beginning of Florida’s lockdown, they decided to record some songs to share with far-flung family members.
“I wanted to show the progress that the kids are making and show them that we can still have fun during these weird, strange times," Clark said.
No one expected that by the time the state reopened, Colt Clark and the Quarantine Kids would have an international following.
Music has always been a part of the Clark family. Colt Clark is a professional musician who frequently performs at Tampa Bay hotels like the Don CeSar and Palm Pavilion. His oldest son, Cash, 10, plays the guitar, bass and some percussion. His son Beckett, 8, is a drummer. Daughter Bellamy, who just turned 6 during shelter-in-place, plays percussion and is mostly known as the backup singer and hype girl who dances around the band. Their mother, Aubree Clark, 34, uses her skills as a professional photographer to film them.
The family started a new routine. The kids would choose a song to learn and perform every day. Then the parents posted the videos online so their extended family members could enjoy them.
“The kids never got tired of it, which was just amazing to me," Clark said. "I would wake up in the morning and think of some songs and start playing and they would want to join in.”
Soon, the videos were attracting thousands of viewers.
“We had no idea anyone would see these other than any of our friends and family,” he said.
The family noticed many of the views were coming from the north. Their videos had become popular in a Canadian Facebook group after the Nova Scotia shooting in early April.
“People were posting our videos just so that people would get happy," Clark said. “Everyone kept saying ‘You don’t know how much joy this brings us.'”
Micky Dolenz, singer and drummer for the Monkees, even took notice. He loved the family’s covers so much that he sent Colt Clark a friend request, mailed the Clarks a care package and extended an invitation to meet after the pandemic died down.
The Clarks started recording a new Beatles cover every Wednesday. Their performance of Come Together quickly became one of their most popular videos.
“In an hour it had gotten 10,000 views,” Clark said. "The next morning, it was almost a million.”
His personal Facebook page started to get more friend requests from people in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia. There were messages and comments from across the world.
Watching in Australia. Hello from New Zealand.
The local family band made nearly 50 videos while sheltering in place. More than 20 million people tuned in.
Then in mid-May, the Ellen Show reached out to schedule a Zoom interview. Producers had received a staggering number of requests from fans to feature the family.
“We spend time as a family every day and yeah, we’re just having fun," Cash Clark told Ellen DeGeneres on Wednesday’s show.
The Clarks told their story and how they started playing in the 60-plus days that Colt Clark had been out of work.
The family performed Come Together. Then, Ellen instructed Clark to open a FedEx box. Inside was a guitar case with a certificate for $20,000.
“That’s life changing," Aubree told Ellen.
“For them to give us a gift like that was pretty amazing, and it definitely helped out," Clark said. “We’re going to be able to build our savings back out.”
The kids high-fived as Ellen invited the family to perform in the studio after lockdown.
Clark started returning to hotels like the Don Cesar on Memorial Day weekend. As he goes back to work gradually, the band has gone from posting a new video every day to every other day. They’ll keep posting covers online, as long as the kids are still up for it.
Clark said he still can’t believe his family’s fun quarantine hobby has gotten so much love from people around the world.
“It just shows that humans need joy in their life and music brings that to them,” he said.