The Everly Brothers (Updated)

If you look up the word “harmony”, it might say…See The Everly Brothers.

(Phil [left] and Don Everly)

Of course it should say…Listen to The Everly Brothers.  It would be hard to find a better example of two voices blending beautifully.  It’s said that family voices blend the best…and it also helps if you have singing talent, play guitars, and write songs.

The Everly Brothers’ parents were folk & country performers who lived at various times in Kentucky, Iowa, and Tennessee.  Don & Phil began singing with the family when Don was eight and Phil was six.  When they were in their teens, guitarist/producer Chet Atkins asked the duo to move to Nashville.  In 1957, when Don was 20 and Phil was 18 they had their first hit…”Bye Bye Love”.  Crossing-over between Pop and Country is not a new thing…the song was #2 on Billboard’s Top 40 chart, and #1 on the Country chart.

(Phil & Don)

Just 4-months later, in the fall of 1957, “Wake Up Little Susie” topped both charts.  In April of 1958, “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, also made #1 on both charts.  Now that’s how you start a career.

Through 1962, The Everly Brothers scored 25 Top 40 hits, with these songs hitting the Top 10:  “Bird Dog” (#1), “Devoted To You” (#10), “Problems” (#2), “(‘Til) I Kissed You” (#4), “Let It Be Me” (#7), “Cathy’s Clown” (#1), “When Will I Be Loved” (#8), “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)” (#7), “Walk Right Back” (#7), “Ebony Eyes” (#8), “Crying In The Rain” (#6), and “That’s Old Fashioned” (#9).

Many of the Everly’s songs were written by the team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, but The Everly Brothers wrote some of their own songs, including “When Will I Be Loved”, “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)” and Don wrote their multi-million-selling hit “Cathy’s Clown”.  Normally, Don sang the lead vocal and Phil sang the harmony.

(My Family’s 1961 copy of “Walk Right Back” & “Ebony Eyes”)

My two older sisters, Veronica & Janice, collected records by The Everly Brothers, Ricky Nelson, and other stars of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  Ronnie and Jan were both good singers, and they had that “sibling blend” like The Everly Brothers.  I remember hearing them sing “Teen Angel” together, and it definitely sounded better than the hit version by Mark Dinning.  By the way, The Everly Brothers’ “Ebony Eyes”…like “Teen Angel” and “Last Kiss”…had that somewhat creepy “dead teenager” theme that was popular at the time.

The Everly Brothers had a major impact on other musicians.  The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, The Hollies, The Bee Gees, CSN&Y and many other musicians of the Sixties and Seventies have said that listening to Phil & Don Everly helped teach them how to sing harmony.  Paul McCartney said he and John Lennon identified with The Everly Brothers, with Paul being Phil, and John being Don.

Artists also covered songs by The Everly Brothers.  Linda Ronstadt had a big hit with “When Will I Be Loved”, and James Taylor and Carly Simon had a hit with “Devoted To You”.  In 2007, The Everly Brothers song, “Gone Gone Gone” was the featured single for the Grammy winning album Raising Sand by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant.  Many more Everly songs can be found as album tracks, including a personal favorite…Art Garfunkel and James Taylor doing “Crying In The Rain”.

As you can see, The Everly Brothers changed their hair after The British Invasion started in 1964 (the year “Gone Gone Gone” was a hit for them).  They never regained the popularity they had in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s, but their music continues to be played.

Despite some conflicts, including a ten year estrangement, they did continue to (off-and-on) record and perform live, including a successful tour with Simon & Garfunkel in 2003. 

Simon & Garfunkel have always said The Everly Brothers were the biggest influence on their own career, so they were thrilled to perform with them.

Phil Everly passed away from lung disease at the age of 75 in 2014.  Don Everly said he thinks of his brother every day.  Update:  Don Everly passed away on August 21st, 2021 at his home in Nashville.  He was 84.  No cause of death was given.

The importance of The Everly Brothers has always been recognized in the music community.  In 1986, they were in the very first group of 10 artists inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.

One Reply to “The Everly Brothers (Updated)”

  1. The Everlys were ok, but I learned much more from Dottie Phyllis and Christine McGuire.

    Editor: Bob, you’re absolutely right that The McGuire Sisters, as well as The Andrews Sisters, did amazing harmony. The Everly Brothers’ popularity in the ‘50’s timed well for young would-be Rock Stars, and the guys probably related to them.

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