THE EVERLY BROTHERS:
The Everly Brothers were American country-influenced rock and roll singers, known for steel-string guitar and close harmony singing. Isaac Donald "Don" Everly (born February 1, 1937) and Phillip "Phil" Everly (January 19, 1939 – January 3, 2014) were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
Family and education
Don was born in Brownie, Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, in 1937, and Phil two years later in Chicago, Illinois. Their parents were Isaac Milford "Ike" Everly, Jr. (1908–1975), a guitar-player, and Margaret Embry Everly. Actor James Best (born Jules Guy), also from Muhlenberg County, was the son of Ike's sister. Margaret was 15 when she married Ike, who was 26. Ike worked in coal mines from 14 but his father encouraged him to pursue his love of music. Ike and Margaret began singing together. The Everly brothers spent most of their childhood in Shenandoah, Iowa. They attended Longfellow Elementary School in Waterloo, Iowa, for a year, but then moved to Shenandoah in 1944, where they remained through early high school.
Ike Everly had a show on KMA and KFNF in Shenandoah in the mid-1940s, first with his wife, and then with their sons. The brothers sang on the radio as "Little Donnie and Baby Boy Phil." The family sang as the Everly Family. Ike, with guitarists Merle Travis, Mose Rager, and Kennedy Jones, was honored in 1992 by construction of the Four Legends Fountain in Drakesboro, Kentucky.
The family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee in 1953, where the brothers attended West High School. In 1955, the family moved to Madison, Tennessee, while the brothers moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Don had graduated from high school in 1955, and Phil attended Peabody Demonstration School in Nashville, from which he graduated in 1957. Both could now focus on recording.
While in Knoxville, the brothers caught the attention of family friend Chet Atkins, manager of RCA Victor's studio in Nashville. The brothers became a duo and moved to Nashville. Despite affiliation with RCA, Atkins arranged for the Everly Brothers to record for Columbia Records in early 1956. Their "Keep A' Lovin' Me," which Don wrote, flopped and they were dropped.
Atkins introduced them to Wesley Rose of Acuff-Rose, music publishers. Rose told them he would get them a recording deal if they signed to Acuff-Rose as songwriters. They signed in late 1956, and in 1957 Rose introduced them to Archie Bleyer, who was looking for artists for his Cadence label. The Everlys signed and made recording in February 1957. Their single, "Bye Bye Love," had been rejected by 30 other acts. Their recording reached No. 2 on the pop charts behind Elvis Presley's "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear", and No. 1 on the Country and No. 5 on the R&B charts. The song, by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, became the Everly Brothers' first million-seller.
Working with the Bryants, they had hits in the United States and the United Kingdom, the biggest "Wake Up Little Susie", "All I Have to Do Is Dream", "Bird Dog", and "Problems", . The Everlys also succeeded as songwriters, especially with Don's "(Till) I Kissed You", which hit No. 4 on the United States pop charts.
The brothers toured with Buddy Holly in 1957 and 1958. According to Holly's biographer Philip Norman, they changed Holly and the Crickets from Levi's and T-shirts to the Everlys' Ivy League suits. Don said Holly wrote "Wishing" for them. Phil said: "We were all from the South. We'd started in country music." While some sources say Phil Everly was one of Holly's pallbearers in February 1959, Phil said in 1986 that he attended the funeral and sat with Holly's family but was not a pallbearer. Don did not attend, saying "I couldn't go to the funeral. I couldn't go anywhere. I just took to my bed."
1960s and 1970s
After three years on Cadence, the Everlys signed with Warner Bros. Records in 1960, for 10 years. Their first hit for Warner Brothers, 1960's "Cathy's Clown" (written by Don and Phil), sold eight million, the duo's biggest-selling. "Cathy's Clown" was number WB1, the first in the United Kingdom by Warner Bros. Records.
We're not Grand Ole Opry ... we're obviously not Perry Como ... we're just pop music. But, you could call us an American skiffle group!
Other successful Warner Brothers singles followed in the United States, such as "So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)" (1960, Pop No. 7), "Walk Right Back" (1961, Pop No. 7), "Crying In The Rain" (1962, Pop No. 6), and "That's Old Fashioned" (1962, Pop No. 9, their last Top 10 hit). From 1960 to 1962, Cadence Records released Everly Brothers singles from the vaults, including "When Will I Be Loved" (written by Phil, Pop No. 8) and "Like Strangers".
In the UK, they had Top 10 hits until 1965, including "Lucille/So Sad" (1960, No. 4), "Walk Right Back/Ebony Eyes (1961, No. 1), "Temptation" (1961, No. 1), "Cryin' In The Rain" (1962, No. 6) and "The Price of Love" (1965, No. 2). They had 18 singles into the UK Top 40 with Warner Brothers in the 1960s. By 1962, the brothers had earned $35 million from record sales.
The brothers fell out with Wesley Rose. As a result, in the early 1960s, the Everlys were shut off from Acuff-Rose songwriters. These included Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who had written most of their 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. From 1961 through early 1964, the Everlys recorded songs by other writers to avoid paying royalties to Acuff-Rose. They used the pseudonym "Jimmy Howard" as writer and/or arranger on two tracks, unsuccessfully because Acuff-Rose assumed the copyrights once the ruse was discovered.
At this time, they set up their own record label, Calliope Records, for solo projects. Using the pseudonym "Adrian Kimberly," Don recorded a big-band instrumental version of "Pomp and Circumstance" arranged by Neal Hefti, and charted in the United States top 40 in mid-1961. Further instrumental singles credited to Kimberly followed but none charted. Phil formed the Keestone Family Singers, which featured Glen Campbell and Carole King. Their lone single, "Melodrama," failed to chart, and by the end of 1962, Calliope Records was no more.
They never stopped working as a duo but their last United States Top Ten hit was 1962's "That's Old Fashioned", a song recorded but unreleased by the Chordettes and given to the brothers by their old mentor, Archie Bleyer. Succeeding years saw the Everly Brothers sell fewer records in the United States. Their enlistment in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in October 1961 (rather than being drafted into the Army for two years of active service) took them out of the spotlight. One of their few performances during Marine service was on The Ed Sullivan Show, in mid-February 1962, performing "Jezebel" and "Crying In The Rain" in their uniforms.
Following active duty, they resumed their career but United States success was limited. Of 27 singles on Warner Brothers from 1963 through 1970, three made the Hot 100 and none peaked higher than No. 31. Album sales were also down. The Everlys' first two albums for Warner (in 1960 and 1961) peaked at No. 9 U.S., but after that, of a dozen more LPs for Warner Brothers, only one made the top 200 (1965's Beat & Soul, which No. 141). Their dispute with Acuff-Rose lasted until 1964, whereupon the brothers again began writing as well as working with the Bryants again.
By then the brothers were addicted to speed. Don's condition was worse, taking Ritalin which led to deeper trouble. Don's addiction lasted three years until he was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown and to cure his addiction. (It should be noted that the mainstream media of that time did not report that either brother was addicted. When Don collapsed in England in mid-October 1962, reporters were told he had food poisoning; when the tabloids suggested he had taken an overdose of pills, his wife and brother insisted he had suffering "physical and nervous exhaustion". It was years later that the story came out.) Don's health ended their British tour; he returned to the United States, leaving Phil to carry on with Joey Page, their bass player, taking his place.
Their stardom began to wane two years before the British Invasion in 1964, though their appeal remained in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. By 1965, they took a back seat to bands like the Beatles, whom the Everlys had influenced. Their fortunes in the States were fading, but the Everlys remained successful in the UK and Canada throughout most of the 1960s, reaching the top 40 in the United Kingdom through 1968, and the top 10 in Canada as late as 1967. The 1966 album Two Yanks in England was recorded in England with the Hollies, who also wrote many of the album's songs. 1967 brought the Everlys' final Top 40 hit, ("Bowling Green").
By the end of the 1960s, the brothers returned to country-rock and their 1968 album Roots is touted by some critics as "one of the finest early country-rock albums." 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, following an unsuccessful live album (The Everly Brothers Show), their contract with Warner Brothers lapsed after ten years. In 1970, they were the summer replacement hosts for Johnny Cash's television show: their variety program, "Johnny Cash Presents the Everly Brothers," was on ABC-TV and featured Linda Ronstadt and Stevie Wonder.
In 1970, Don's first solo album was not a success. The brothers resumed performing in 1971, and with RCA Victor Records they issued two albums in 1972 and 1973. They said their final performance would be on July 14, 1973, at Knott's Berry Farm in California. Tensions between the two surfaced and Don told a reporter he was tired of being an Everly Brother. During the show, Don was drunk and unable to play well, leading Phil to smash his guitar and walk off while Don finished the show, ending their collaboration. Reportedly, they did not speak to each other for almost a decade, except at their father's funeral in 1975.
Solo years: 1973–1983
Phil and Don pursued solo careers during a decade. Don found some success on the US. country charts in the mid to late 1970s, in Nashville with his band Dead Cowboys, and playing with Albert Lee. Don also performed solo in London in mid-1976 at an annual country music festival. His appearance was well-received and he was given "thunderous applause," even though critics noted that performance was uneven.
Phil sang backup for Roy Wood's 1975 album Mustard and two songs for Warren Zevon's 1976 album Warren Zevon.
In 1979, Don recorded "Everytime You Leave," with Emmylou Harris, on her album Blue Kentucky Girl.
Phil recorded more frequently but with no chart success until the 1980s. Phil wrote "Don't Say You Don't Love Me No More" for the 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) playing in the band behind Sondra's.
Then, in 1983, Phil had UK success as a soloist with the album Phil Everly, recorded mainly in London. 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", written by Ian Gomm, reached the Top 50 in 1983.
Reunion and subsequent activities: 1983–2006
The brothers' reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London on September 23, 1983, was initiated by Phil and Don alongside Terry Slater. English pianist Pete Wingfield was musical director. This concert spawned a live LP and video broadcast on cable television in mid-January 1984. The brothers 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. Jeff Lynne wrote and Dave Edmunds produced the single "The Story of me". Lead single "On the Wings of a Nightingale," written by Paul McCartney, was a qualified success (Top 10 adult contemporary) and returned them to the United States Hot 100 (for their last appearance) and UK chart.
Their final charting was "Born Yesterday" in 1986 from the album of the same name. They collaborated with other performers, usually singing either backup vocals or duets.In 1990, Phil recorded a duet with Dutch singer René Shuman. "On Top of the World" was written by Phil and appeared in the music video they recorded in Los Angeles. The track appeared on Shuman's album Set the Clock on Rock. In 1994, a 1981 live BBC recording of "All I Have to Do Is Dream," featuring Cliff Richard and Phil sharing vocals, was a UK Top-20 hit.
Phil provided backing vocals on "You Got Gold" from John Prine's 1991 album The Missing Years. Both the Everlys and Prine had family connections to Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, and Prine was a frequent performer at "The Everly Brother's Homecoming" concerts in Central City, Kentucky, over the years.
In 1998, the brothers recorded "Cold" for the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman's Whistle Down the Wind, and the recording was used in stage versions as a "song on the radio."
In 1999, Don Everly and Edan performed "The Everly Brothers for Kentucky Flood Relief".
The brothers joined Simon & Garfunkel in their "Old Friends" reunion tour of 2003 and 2004. As a tribute to the Everly Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel opened their own show and had the Everlys come out in the middle. The live album, Old Friends: Live on Stage, contains Simon & Garfunkel discussing the Everlys' influence on their career and features all four in on "Bye Bye Love" (the subsequent DVD features two extra solo performances by the Everlys). For Paul Simon, it was not the first time he had performed with his heroes, as in 1986, the Everlys sang background vocals on the title track of Simon's album Graceland.
In 2004, a compilation titled Country Classics was released, consisting of tracks recorded in 1972 and 1985.
In 2006, Phil Everly sang "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.
Phil Everly's death
On January 3, 2014, Phil Everly died at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, 16 days before his 75th birthday. The cause was complications from lung disease, brought on by a lifetime of smoking.