Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



Pop/C&W vocalists, guitarists: Don (Isaac Donald Everly, b 1 February 1937, Brownie KY; d 21 August 2021, Nashville), Phil (b 19 January 1939, Chicago; d 3 January 2014, Burbank CA). They grew up in Shenandoah, Iowa. Their parents Ike and Margaret Everly were well-known in the South and the Midwest; Ike in particular as a black-influenced guitarist in the same mould as Sam McGee, Merle Travis, etc. Their sons joined them on a radio show in Iowa mid-'40s and went solo when the parents retired. To Nashville writing songs for Acuff/Rose (Don's 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' was a no. 14 country chart for Kitty Wells '54); they made a country single for Columbia 'Keep A'Lovin' Me'/'The Sun Keeps Shining' then went to Archie Bleyer's Cadence label with Felice and Boudleaux Bryant's 'Bye Bye Love' '57 and such was the underground buzz that record shops and distributors were inundated with orders for a single that no one had heard yet. Only a little over a year after Elvis Presley's 'Heartbreak Hotel' and Carl Perkins's 'Blue Suede Shoes' had brought rockabilly to the national audience, here was close harmony as country as a cowpat, a bluesy lament about lost love worthy of Hank Williams and a rocking beat with no drums, all in Bleyer's superb up-to-date recording quality: nobody had heard anything like it. 'Bye Bye Love' was no. 1 country and 2 pop, no. 6 in UK, and a shot in the arm for Nashville; it made the brothers legends.

They had six top ten hits in the country chart '57-9 and 25 top 40 pop hits '57-64, 15 in the top ten and four at no. 1: 'Wake Up Little Susie' '57, 'All I Have To Do Is Dream' and 'Bird Dog' '58, 'Cathy's Clown' '60 (on WB: they left Cadence in a dispute over royalties; then to RCA '72). Their first album The Everly Brothers '58 was no. 16 USA, had both 'Bye Bye Love' and 'Susie' on it; but the second did not chart: Songs Our Daddy Taught Us paid dues to their roots with lovely versions of traditional songs. Fabulous Style Of The Everly Brothers '60 was a Cadence compilation; It's Everly Time! and A Date With The Everly Brothers on WB were both top ten LPs '60; Golden Hits WB charted twice '62. Other albums included Sing Great Country Songs '63, Very Best Of, Gone, Gone, Gone and Beat And Soul '65, In Our Image '66, Hit Sound and The Everly Brothers Sing '67, Roots '68 (including a portion of a childhood radio broadcast with parents), Original Greatest Hits '70 (a two-disc compilation on Barnaby of Cadence hits): altogether eight albums charted in the USA.

They had a summer TV series on CBS-TV, then Stories We Could Tell '72, Pass The Chicken And Listen '73 on RCA; the backup band included Warren Zevon on keyboards and Waddy Wachtel on guitar. By then both had had personal problems, including addiction to speed and Don's nervous breakdown; a violent split came when Phil smashed a guitar on stage and walked out. Don announced 'The Everly Brothers died ten years ago.'

Don wrote songs, made solo albums Don Everly '71 and Sunset Towers '74 on Ode, Brother Juke Box '77 on Hickory; Phil hosted radio programme In Session; his song 'When Will I Be Loved' was a hit '75 for Linda Ronstadt; he made albums Star Spangled Springer '73 on RCA, then Nothing's Too Good For My Baby and Phil's Diner '74, Mystic Line '75, Living Alone and Phil Everly '79 on various labels. They re-formed '83, had chart albums '84: two-disc live Reunion Concert on Passport just made it, EB 84 on Mercury reached no. 38. Popular as ever in the UK, they would not talk about the split.