According to accounts, the brothers were the grandsons of former slaves and sons of tobacco sharecroppers born in Roanoke, Virginia, in the 1890s and were kidnapped as boys, sold off to a local carnival sideshow, and paraded around the country.
The Muse brothers were a rarity: Black albinos would be a lucrative attraction for a carnival with a so-called “human oddities” segment. According to a report by The Roanoke Times, the brothers were tricked by a bounty hunter working for a sideshow promoter and taken away from their mother. The man told the brothers that their mother was dead.
The boys could not go to school, neither were they paid for their work. They were kept in slavery, earning nothing despite thousands of people who paid to see them. Their only rewards were clownish attire they wore for the shows and food meant to keep the ‘assets’ alive.
One of their owners had found that George and Willie harbored the ability to play any song on almost any instrument, from the xylophone to the saxophone and mandolin, and that made them even more famous and more valuable ‘assets’ to owners of traveling circuses. However, after all this time, their illiterate mother had not ceased looking for her boys.
In the fall of 1927, the brothers were on a tour with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to Roanoke. Little did the boys know they were coming home from which they had disappeared nearly three decades back.
It came to their mother’s attention that 'The Greatest Show On Earth' was in town and she was determined to find them. It was a tough decision to confront the Ringling Brothers who were powerful multimillionaires who also had the attention of the heavyweight politicians and law enforcement agencies.
Their mother tracked them down and eventually found the boys working for the Ringling Brothers circus and surprised them while they were on stage and their family reunited, 28 years later since they had gone missing in the same town. The poor and powerless woman stood up to the police and big shot circus owners and successfully took her son's home.