Paul Simon once said that he and Art Garfunkel “almost worshiped” the brothers. Paul McCartney and John Lennon were forever singing their hosannas.
Red Hot Chili frontman Anthony Kiedis–who hardly seems like the Everly type–named his son Everly in their honor. Neil Young–a huge fan–and Rob Plant of that Led head banging band is as well.
I never get tired of listening to that amazing blend of their amazing voices myself.
But I’m reading a biography of them, and all that glitters was, more often than not, never golden for the two “golden boys,” whose lives have been shadowed by some seriously dark valleys.
For 10 years the Everly Brothers famously hated each other, only to reunite and grow closer than ever. In time become MTV stars and won over another generation of fans.
Their “On the Wings of a Nightingale” song and video–a song that their No. 1 fan Paul McCartney wrote–is exhilirating still.
Here’s the skinny from Wiki on them:
The Everly Brothers (Don Everly, born Isaac Donald Everly February 1, 1937, Brownie, Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, Phil Everly, born Phillip Everly, January 19, 1939, Chicago, Illinois) are brothers and country-influenced rock and roll performers, known for steel-string guitar playing and close harmony singing. The Everlys are the most successful U.S. rock and roll duo on the Hot 100.
Their greatest period came between 1957 and 1964.
The brothers are both guitarists and use a simple vocal harmony mostly based on parallel thirds. With this, each line can often stand on its own as a melody line. This is in contrast to classic harmony lines which, while working well alongside the melody, sound strange by themselves. One example of their close-harmony is “Devoted to You.”
For virtually all the Everly Brothers recordings, Don sings the lower harmony part, while Phil takes the higher part. As well, Don almost always sings any lines that are sung solo. Among the very few exceptions to this is the Everlys’ 1965 single “It’s All Over”, where Phil sings the song’s solo lines.
The duo’s harmony singing had a strong influence on rock and roll groups of the 1960s. The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Simon & Garfunkel developed their early singing style by performing Everly covers. The Beatles based the vocal arrangement of “Please Please Me” upon “Cathy’s Clown.”
Their father Ike Everly was a musician. Ike, with Merle Travis, Mose Rager, and Kennedy Jones, was honored by the construction of The Four Legends Fountain in Drakesboro, Kentucky. Ike Everly had a show on KMA and KFNF in Shenandoah, Iowa, in the 1940s, with his wife Margaret and two young sons. Singing on the show gave the brothers their first exposure to the music industry. The family sang together live and traveled in the area singing as the Everly Family. The Everly Brothers grew up from ages 5 and 7 through early high school in Shenandoah. (Their boyhood home is being restored and will be donated to the Shenandoah Historical Society in the spring of 2009.)
As the brothers transitioned out of the family act and into a duo, family friend Chet Atkins became an early champion of The Everly Brothers. Despite Atkins’ affiliation with RCA Records, it was Atkins who engineered a chance for The Everly Brothers to record for Columbia Records in early 1956. However, their first and only single for the label, “Keep A’ Lovin’ Me”, was a flop, and they were quickly dropped from Columbia.
Atkins still encouraged the Everly Brothers to continue on, and introduced them to Wesley Rose of Acuff-Rose music publishers. Impressed with the duo’s songwriting talents, Rose told them that if they signed to Acuff-Rose as songwriters, he would also get them a recording deal. The duo singed to Acuff-Rose in late 1956, and by early 1957 Rose had introduced them to Archie Bleyer, who was setting up his new Cadence Records label. The Everlys signed to Cadence, and entered the recording studio for their first Cadence session in February 1957.
Their first Cadence single, “Bye Bye Love”, had been rejected by 30 other acts (including Elvis Presley), but the Everlys saw potiental in the song. Their recording of “Bye Bye Love” reached #2 on the pop charts behind Presley’s “Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear”, hitting #1 on the Country and the R&B charts. The song, written by the husband and wife Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, became the Everly Brothers’ first million-seller.
They became stalwarts of Archie Bleyer’s Cadence Records label. Working with the Bryants, the duo had hits in the United States and the United Kingdom, the biggest being “Wake Up Little Susie”, “All I Have to Do Is Dream”, “Bird Dog”, and “Problems”, all penned by the Bryants. The Everlys also found success as songwriters, especially with the Don Everly-penned “(‘Til) I Kissed You”, which hit #4 on the US pop charts.
The Everly Brothers also toured extensively with Buddy Holly during 1957 and 1958. According to Holly biographer Philip Norman, they were responsible for the change in style for Buddy and the Crickets from Levis and t-shirts to the Everly’s sharp Ivy League suits. Don also remembers Buddy as a generous songwriter who wrote ‘Wishing’ for them. “We were all from the South, we’d started in country music” said Phil Everly.
Phil Everly was one of Buddy Holly’s pallbearers at his funeral in February 1959. Don Everly did not attend. He later said, “I couldn’t go to the funeral. I couldn’t go anywhere. I just took to my bed.”
After three years on the Cadence label, the Everlys signed with Warner Bros. Records in 1960, for a reported 10 year, multi-million dollar deal. They continued to have hits for Warner Brothers and their first, 1960’s “Cathy’s Clown” (written by Don and Phil) sold eight million copies, making it the duo’s biggest-selling record. “Cathy’s Clown” was number WB1, the first release in the United Kingdom by Warner Brothers Records.
Other successful Warner Brothers singles followed, such as “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)” (1960) (Pop #7), “Walk Right Back” (1961) (Pop #7), “Crying In The Rain” (1962) (Pop #6), and “That’s Old Fashioned” (1962) (Pop #9, their last Top 10 hit). From 1960 to 1962, Cadence Records also continued to release Everly Brothers singles from the vaults: these included the top ten hit “When Will I Be Loved” (written by Phil) (Pop #8) and the top 40 hit “Like Strangers”, as well as lower-charting singles.
However, shortly after signing with Warner Brothers, the Everlys fell out with their manager Wesley Rose, who also administered the Acuff-Rose music publishing company. Consequently for a period in the early 1960s, the Everlys were shut off from Acuff-Rose songwriters. These included Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who had written the majority of the Everlys’ hits, as well as Don and Phil Everly themselves, who were still contracted to Acuff-Rose as songwriters and had written several of their own hits. Their dispute with Acuff-Rose lasted until 1964, at which point the brothers once again began writing some of their own material, as well as working with the Bryants.
With proven sources of hit material unavailable, from 1961 through early 1964 the Everlys recorded a mix of covers and songs by other writers. Their last U.S. Top Ten hit was 1962’s “That’s Old Fashioned” and succeeding years saw the Everly Brothers selling many fewer records in the United States. Their enlistment in the United States Marine Corps in November 1961 also took them out of the spotlight; one of their few performances during their Marines stint was an on-leave appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, performing “Jezebel” and “Crying In The Rain”. Their star had begun to wane two years before the British Invasion in 1964 — although their appeal remained strong in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere.
After the Marine Corps the brothers resumed their career, but U.S. chart success was limited. Of the 27 singles the Everly Brothers released on Warner Brothers from 1963 through 1970, only three made the Hot 100, and none peaked higher than #31. Album sales were also down. The Everlys first two albums for Warners (in 1960 and 1961) both peaked at #9 US—but after that, though they went on to relase a dozen more LPs for Warner Brothers, only one made the top 200 (1965’s Beat & Soul, which topped out at #141.)
If their US fortunes were fading, The Everlys remained a successful act in Britain and Canada throughout most of the 1960s, reaching the top 40 in the United Kingdom with singles through 1968, and the top 10 in Canada as late as 1967. The 1966 album Two Yanks in England was a reflection of The Everlys popularity in the UK; the album was recorded in the England with backup by the major chart act The Hollies, who also wrote many of the album’s songs.
Towards the end of the 1960s, the Everly Brothers returned to an emphasis on their country-rock roots, and their 1968 album Roots is touted by some critics as a superior example of their music. However by the end of the 1960s The Everly Brothers were no longer hitmakers in either North America or the United Kingdom, and in 1970 their contract with Warner Bros. lapsed after ten years. In 1970, they were the summer replacement hosts for Johnny Cash’s television show.
The break-up of the Everly Brothers
In 1970, Don Everly released his first solo album, but it was not a success. The Everly Brothers resumed performing in 1971, and signed a contract with RCA Records, for whom they issued two albums in 1972 and ’73.
The duo split on July 14, 1973, when Don Everly came onstage too drunk to perform at Knotts Berry Farm. This was especially embarrassing since it was billed as their last performance, and so family members, friends, and fans from within the music industry were in heavy attendance (including former band member Warren Zevon, whose biography, cited below, contains first-hand accounts of this incident). After several futile attempts, Phil Everly became enraged, smashed his guitar, and stormed offstage and out of the building, dragging his wife in tow. This left Don to finish the concert by himself. Don told the crowd, “The Everly Brothers died ten years ago.”
The solo years (1973-1983)
After the split, Phil and Don Everly would not speak to each other for the next 10 years, only getting together once in 1975 for their father’s funeral. While to this day, they rarely comment on their break-up, they said in interviews that the 10-year period when they did not speak to each other gave them a chance to become older and wiser.
Each pursued solo careers during this decade apart. Don found some modest success on the US country charts in the mid to late 1970s. Phil, meanwhile, recorded less frequently, and with no real chart success until the 1980s. However, Phil did write “Don’t Say You Don’t Love Me No More” for the hit Clint Eastwood comedy film, Every Which Way But Loose (1978) in which he performed it as a duet with co-star, Sondra Locke. He also wrote “One Too Many Women In Your Life” for the sequel, Any Which Way You Can (1980) where he could be seen playing in the band behind Sondra’s performance.
Then, in 1983, Phil enjoyed significant UK success as a soloist with the album Phil Everly, recorded mainly in London. Session musicians on the LP included Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler, Rockpile drummer Terry Williams, and keyboard player Pete Wingfield. The track “She Means Nothing To Me”, written by John David Williams and featuring Cliff Richard as co-lead vocalist, was a UK Top 10 hit, and “Louise” reached the Top 50 in 1983.
Reunion and subsequent activities (1983-present)
The brothers got back together in 1983. Their reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London on September 22, 1983, was instigated by English guitarist Albert Lee (who was also the concert’s musical director). This concert spawned a well-received live LP and video.
The brothers then returned to the studio as a duo for the first time in over a decade, resulting in the album EB ’84, produced by Dave Edmunds. Lead single “On the Wings of a Nightingale”, written by Paul McCartney, was a minor success and returned them to the U.S. and UK charts.
They then earned a final charting country-music hit with “Born Yesterday” in 1986 from the album of the same name. During this time Don’s son, Edan Everly, would often join the Everly brothers on stage to sing and play guitar.
Even though the brothers have not produced studio albums since 1989’s Some Hearts, they tour and perform. They have collaborated with other performers, usually singing either backup vocals or duets. Phil has been especially active in this regard: in 1994, a new recording of “All I Have to Do Is Dream”, featuring Cliff Richard and Phil sharing vocals, was a U.K. Top 20 hit.
In 2006, Phil Everly sang a duet, “Sweet Little Corrina”, with country singer Vince Gill on his album These Days. He previously supplied harmony vocals on J.D. Souther’s “White Rhythm and Blues” on his 1979 album You’re Only Lonely.
In 1999 Don Everly and his son Edan Everly did a benefit show billed as The Everly Brothers for Kentucky flood relief.
In 2004 a compilation entitled “Country Classics” was released. This consists of tracks recorded in 1972 and 1985.
The Everly Brothers had 26 Billboard Top 40 singles and 35 Billboard Top 100 singles. They hold the record for the most Top 100 singles by any duo, and trail only Hall & Oates for the most Top 40 singles by a duo. Hall and Oates had 29 singles in the top 40, all between 1976 and 1990.
In 1986, the Everlys were among the first 10 artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. During the ceremony, they were introduced by Neil Young, who observed that every musical group he belonged to had failed to copy the Everly Brothers’ harmonies. That year on July 5, the Everlys returned to their boyhood home of Shenandoah to a crowd of 8,500 for a concert, parade, street dedication, class reunion and other activities. Concert fees were donated to The Everly Family Scholarship Fund which gives scholarships to middle and high school students in Shenandoah every year.
In 1997, they were awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition, they were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004. Their pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. The Everly Brothers have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7000 Hollywood Blvd. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked The Everly Brothers #33 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. They are also #43 on the list of UK Best selling singles artists of all time.
They were also songwriters, penning “Till I Kissed You” (Don), “Cathy’s Clown” (Don and Phil), and “When Will I Be Loved” (Phil). “Cathy’s Clown” and “When Will I Be Loved” later became hits for Reba McEntire and Linda Ronstadt, respectively; (for the latter, the Everly Brothers sang the chorus). Also, the Norwegian band a-ha covered “Crying In The Rain” in 1990 for their fourth album, East of The Sun, West of The Moon.
The Bee Gees acknowledged that they would sing in the style of the Everlys and then add a third harmony. This is evident on the Bee Gees’ 1967 hit, “New York Mining Disaster 1941”.
Paul McCartney paid tribute by mentioning “Phil and Don” in his 1976 million-seller, “Let ’em In”.
They still perform occasionally, despite having declared their retirement. They joined Simon & Garfunkel as the featured act in the Simon and Garfunkel reunion tour of 2003 and 2004. As a tribute to the Everly Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel opened their own show and had the Everlys come out in the middle. For Paul Simon, it was not the first time he had performed with his heroes. In 1986, The Everlys sang background vocals on the title track of Simon’s album Graceland.
On Labor Day Weekend 1988, Central City Kentucky began The Everly Brothers Homecoming event to raise money for a scholarship fund for Muhlenberg County students. The Homecoming became a popular annual event for fourteen years, ending in 2002. Don and Phil toured the United Kingdom in 2005 and Phil appeared in 2007 on recordings with Vince Gill and Bill Medley. Also in 2007, country singer Alison Krauss and former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant released “Raising Sand” which included a cover of the 1964 hit single, “Gone, Gone, Gone” produced by T-Bone Burnett.
Don Everly’s daughter, Erin Everly, was briefly married to the front man of Guns N’ Roses, Axl Rose. Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis named his son, Everly, after the members of the band.
Throughout the 1950s, The Everly Brothers used Gibson J-200 guitars, some with dual white pickguards. In 1962, Gibson Guitar Corporation collaborated with the brothers to produce the Gibson Everly Brothers Flattop, a signature acoustic guitar.
Today, Phil Everly is involved with his own musical instrument accessories company. Everly Music Company produces products designed by Phil and Jason Everly, Phil’s eldest son, for guitar and bass.
Robert Carmine of California band Rooney sang ‘Dream’ and ‘Cathy’s Clown’ in one of his video diaries, saying that The Everly Brothers were one of their favourite bands.