The Three Stooges got their name and their start from a vaudeville act called Ted Healy and His Stooges (previously called "Ted Healy and His Southern Gentlemen" and "Ted Healy and His Racketeers"), which was founded in 1922.
Brothers Harry Moses Howard (Moe) and Samuel Howard (Shemp) (original last name Horwitz) were later joined by violinist Larry Fine (born Louis Feinberg).
Shemp acquired his name from his mother's attempts to pronounce his name, "Sam," in spite of her thick accent.
By 1930, Ted Healy and His Stooges were appearing in Hollywood feature films, such as Soup to Nuts.
Shemp left the act in 1931 for a career in feature films, notably as trainer Knobby Walsh in the Joe Palooka films, and in The Bank Dick with W.C. Fields.
When Shemp left the act, Ted and the two remaining stooges (Moe and Larry) needed a third stooge, so Moe suggested his youngest brother Jerry (Jerome Lester Howard).
Ted took one look at Jerry, who had long black locks and facial hair, and stated that Jerry did not look like a character, as did Moe and Larry.
Thus, Jerry left the room and returned moments later with a shaved head and face; thus, 'Curly' was born. (There are varying accounts as to how Curly actually came about.
Some publications maintain that Moe, Larry, Ted Healy, and even Shemp actually came up with the concept of shaving Jerry's head and dubbing him 'Curly.')
According to Moe Howard in his autobiography, Moe Howard and the Three Stooges, the Stooges split with Ted Healy in 1934 once and for all because of Healy's alcoholism and abrasiveness.
New e-book: Larry Fine