The Everly Brothers
|The Everly Brothers|
Don (right) and Phil (left) Everly in promotional photo in 1958
February 1, 1937 |
Phil: January 19, 1939
|Died||Phil: January 3, 2014
|Genres||Country, rockabilly, rock and roll|
|Years active||1957–73, 1983–2014|
|Labels||Cadence, London (UK), Warner Bros., RCA Victor, Razor & Tie, Mercury|
The Everly Brothers were American country-influenced rock and roll singers, known for steel-string guitar playing and close harmony singing. The duo, consisting of 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. The Everly Brothers grew up in Shenandoah, Iowa, from ages 5 and 7 through early high school. The family then moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where the brothers attended Knox West High School, and went on to attend Indiana State University where they both were members of Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) Fraternity's Gamma-Rho chapter.
Ike Everly had a show on radio stations KMA and KFNF in Shenandoah in the 1940s, with his wife and two young sons. Singing on the show gave the brothers their first exposure to the music industry. The family sang together and lived and traveled in the area singing as the Everly Family. Ike, with guitarists Merle Travis, Mose Rager, and Kennedy Jones, was honored in 1992 by the construction of the Four Legends Fountain in Drakesboro, Kentucky.
While living in Knoxville, the brothers continued their musical development and first caught the attention of family friend Chet Atkins. As they transitioned out of the family act and into a duo, Atkins became an early champion of the Everly Brothers. Despite his affiliation with RCA Records, it was Atkins who arranged a chance for the Everly Brothers to record for Columbia Records in early 1956. However, their first and only single for Columbia, "Keep A' Lovin' Me," was a flop, and they were quickly dropped from the label.
Atkins still encouraged the Everly Brothers to continue, 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 signed to Acuff-Rose in late 1956, and by early 1957, Rose had introduced them to Archie Bleyer, who was looking for artists for his Cadence label. The Everlys signed, 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 but the Everlys saw potential in the song. Their recording of "Bye Bye Love" reached No. 2 on the pop charts behind Elvis Presley's "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear", hitting No. 1 on the Country and No. 5 on the R&B charts. The song, written by the husband and wife team Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, became the Everly Brothers' first million-seller.
They became stalwarts of the Cadence 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 Don's "(Till) I Kissed You", which hit No. 4 on the United States pop charts.
The brothers toured extensively with Buddy Holly during 1957 and 1958. According to Holly biographer Philip Norman, they were responsible for the change in style for Holly and the Crickets from Levi's and T-shirts to the Everlys' sharp Ivy League suits. Don claimed Holly to be a generous songwriter who wrote the song "Wishing" for them, while Phil later stated: "We were all from the South. We'd started in country music." Phil Everly was one of Holly's pallbearers at his funeral in February 1959. Don did not attend, later saying "I couldn't go to the funeral. I couldn't go anywhere. I just took to my bed."
The 1960s and 1970s
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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 and their first for Warner Brothers, 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 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 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 No. 8) and the Top 40 hit "Like Strangers," as well as lower-charting singles.
In the UK, they were arguably more successful with 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). In total they placed 18 singles into the UK Top 40 with Warner Brothers in the 1960s.
By 1962, the Everly Brothers had earned $35 million from record sales.
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. As a result, 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. With proven sources of hit material unavailable, from 1961 through early 1964, the Everlys recorded a mix of covers and songs by other writers in order to avoid paying royalties to Acuff-Rose. They also used the collective pseudonym "Jimmy Howard" as writer and/or arranger on two tracks, a move that was ultimately unsuccessful, as Acuff-Rose legally assumed the copyrights to these songs once the ruse was discovered.
About this same time, they also set up their own record label, Calliope Records, to release independent solo projects. Using the pseudonym "Adrian Kimberly," Don recorded a big-band instrumental version of "Pomp and Circumstance" that was arranged by Neal Hefti, and charted in the United States top 40 in mid-1961. Further instrumental single releases credited to Kimberly followed over the next year, but none of these follow-ups charted. Phil, meanwhile, formed a group called the Keestone Family Singers which also 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 during this time, but their last United States Top Ten hit was 1962's "That's Old Fashioned", a song previously recorded (but unreleased) by the Chordettes, and given to the Brothers by their old mentor, Archie Bleyer. Succeeding years saw the Everly Brothers selling many fewer records in the United States. Their enlistment in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in November 1961 (rather than being drafted into the Army for two years of active service) also took them out of the spotlight for six months. One of their few performances during their Marine Corps service was an on-leave appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, performing "Jezebel" and "Crying In The Rain."
Following their release from active duty, they resumed their career, but United States 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 No. 31. Album sales were also down. The Everlys' first two albums for Warner (in 1960 and 1961) both peaked at No. 9 U.S., but after that, though they went on to release a dozen more LPs for Warner Brothers, only one made the top 200 (1965's Beat & Soul, which topped out at No. 141). Their dispute with Acuff-Rose lasted until 1964, whereupon the brothers once again began writing some of their own material, as well as working with the Bryants again.
By then the brothers' personal lives had gone through serious upheavals. Both were addicted to speed. Don's condition was worse, since he was taking the then unregulated drug Ritalin which led to deeper trouble. Don's addiction lasted three years until he was finally hospitalized for a nervous breakdown and to cure his addiction to Ritalin. They embarked on a UK tour, but Don was unable to complete it and 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 strong in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere.
By 1965, they took a back seat to the new sound of the beat boom, including bands like the Beatles, whom the Everlys had greatly 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 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 U.K. It was recorded in England with backup by a major UK chart act, the Hollies, who also wrote many of the album's songs. 1967 saw the Everlys' final Top 40 hit in the charts ("Bowling Green").
By 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 "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. 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 Victor Records, for whom they issued two albums in 1972 and 1973. They then decided to take time off from performing, announcing their final performance together would be on July 14, 1973, at Knott's Berry Farm in California. Unfortunately, high tensions between the two began to surface during the show until Phil smashed his guitar and stormed off the stage, 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
After the split, Phil and Don Everly pursued solo careers during a decade apart. Don found some success on the U.S. country charts in the mid to late 1970s, in Nashville with his band Dead Cowboys, and playing with Albert Lee.
Phil, meanwhile, recorded more frequently than Don, but 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", written by Ian Gomm, reached the Top 50 in 1983.
Reunion and subsequent activities: 1983–2006
The brothers got back together in 1983. Their reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London on September 23, 1983, was initiated 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 qualified success (Top 10 adult contemporary) and returned them to the United States Hot 100 (for their last appearance) and UK chart.
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 had not produced studio albums since 1989's Some Hearts, they toured and performed. They collaborated with other performers, usually singing either backup vocals or duets. Phil was especially active in this regard. In 1990, he recorded a vocal 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 the song "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 the song "Cold" for the concept album of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman's Whistle Down the Wind, and the recording was later used in stage versions as a "song on the radio."
In 1999, Don Everly and his son Edan performed a benefit show billed as "The Everly Brothers for Kentucky Flood Relief".
The brothers joined Simon & Garfunkel as the featured act in Simon & Garfunkel's "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 of the tour, Old Friends: Live on Stage, contains Simon & Garfunkel discussing the Everlys' influence on their career and features all four performers joining 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 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.
Death of Phil Everly
On January 3, 2014, Phil Everly died at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, just sixteen days prior to his 75th birthday. The cause of his death was complications attributed to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a combination of emphysema and bronchitis), brought on by a lifetime of smoking.
Style and influences
Don and Phil Everly, both guitarists, used vocal harmony mostly based on diatonic 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, are not as melodic by themselves.
On most of their recordings, Don sings the baritone part and Phil the tenor part. One exception is on "Devoted to You". Although Don is still low and Phil high, they switch lead and harmony back and forth. Don typically sings any lines that are sung solo (for example, the verses of "Bye Bye Love"); among the exceptions to this rule is the 1965 single "It's All Over", where Phil sings the song's solo lines.
In the late 1950s, the Everly Brothers were the rock 'n' roll youth movement's addition to close harmony vocal groups of which many were family bands. The duo's harmony singing had a strong influence on rock groups of the 1960s. The Beatles, the Beach Boys and Simon & Garfunkel developed their early singing styles by performing Everly covers. The Bee Gees, the Hollies and other rock'n'roll groups that feature harmony singing were also influenced by the Everlys.
The music of the Everly Brothers is acknowledged to have influenced many successful musicians, including the Beatles, who famously once referred to themselves as "the English Everly Brothers" (when Paul and John went hitch-hiking down south to win a talent competition)  and based the vocal arrangement of "Please Please Me" upon "Cathy's Clown". Keith Richards called Don Everly "one of the finest rhythm players". Singer-songwriter Paul Simon who worked with the pair on his hit Graceland said in an email the day after Phil's death: "Phil and Don were the most beautiful sounding duo I ever heard. Both voices pristine and soulful. The Everlys were there at the crossroads of country and R&B. They witnessed and were part of the birth of rock and roll."
The Everly Brothers had 35 Billboard Top-100 singles, 26 in the top 40. 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. In the UK, they had 30 chart singles, 29 in the top 40, 13 top 10 and 4 at No. 1 between 1957 and 1984. They had 12 top-40 albums between 1960 and 2009.
In 1986, the Everly Brothers 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 tried and 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 the brothers 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 No. 33 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Times. They are also No. 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 its fourth album, East of The Sun, West of The Moon.
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.
Three Everly Brothers tribute records were released in 2013 alone: Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones' Foreverly, the Chapin Sisters' A Date with the Everly Brothers and Bonnie Prince Billy and Dawn McCarthy's What the Brothers Sang.
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