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The Everly Brothers (Isaac Donald "Don" Everly, born February 1, 1937, and Phillip "Phil" Everly, born January 19, 1939) are American country-influenced rock and roll singers, known for steel-string guitar playing and close harmony singing. The duo was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
Don and Phil Everly are both guitarists and use 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, are not as melodic by themselves.
For 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 is high, they switch lead and harmony back and forth. Don almost always sings any lines that are sung solo (for example, the verses of "Bye Bye Love"). Among the exceptions to this rule is the Everlys' 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. Among the Everly's famous counterparts in country music were The Delmore Brothers, The Louvin Brothers, Jim & Jesse (McReynolds) and The Osborne Brothers.
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, and the Hollies.
Don was born in Brownie, Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, and Phil two years later in Chicago, Illinois. 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 and lived 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. They are the cousins of actor James Best. The Everly family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee and the brothers attended Knox West High School, continuing their musical development and first catching the attention of Chet Atkins.
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 his 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, 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 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 potential in the song. Their recording of "Bye Bye Love" reached No. 2 on the pop charts behind 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 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 US 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 Buddy Holly's pallbearers at his funeral in February 1959, although Don did not attend. He later said, "I couldn't go to the funeral. I couldn't go anywhere. I just took to my bed."
The 1960s and 1970s
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, 1960s "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 US, 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. 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. 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.
Around this same time, the brothers 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 US 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.
The brothers never stopped working as a duo during this time, but their last US 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 Reserves in November 1961 (so as to not be drafted into the regular Army) also took them out of the spotlight for six months of training and active duty; 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."
After the Marine Corps, the brothers resumed their career, but US 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 US—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, at which point 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 for a while. Don's condition was made worse because he was taking the then unregulated drug Ritalin which led to deeper trouble. Don's addiction lasted three years and eventually he was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown and help for his addiction to Ritalin. It was during this troubled time the duo embarked on a UK tour. Don was unable to complete the tour and returned to the US leaving Phil to carry on with their bass player, Joey Page, taking the place of Don.
Their stardom 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.
By 1965, the duo took a back seat to the new sound of the beat boom—including bands like the Beatles, whom the Everlys had in fact greatly influenced. But if their fortunes in the States were fading, the Everlys remained a successful act 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.; the album was recorded in England with backup by major UK 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 "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 their contract with Warner Bros. 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. The duo broke up shortly thereafter, amidst much acrimony. They reportedly did not speak to each other for the better part of a decade, except at their father's funeral.
The solo years: 1973–83
After the split, Phil and Don Everly pursued solo careers during a decade apart. 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.
Phil sang back-up vocals on one song for Roy Wood's 1975 album Mustard and two songs for Warren Zevon's 1976 album Warren Zevon.
In 1979, Don Everly recorded a duet with Emmylou Harris, "Everytime You Leave," on her album "Blue Kentucky Girl."
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" 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 23, 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 US 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. The brothers also sang vocals with Paul Simon on the Grammy award-winning title track to Simon's album Graceland.
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 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 new recording of "All I Have to Do Is Dream," featuring Cliff Richard and Phil sharing vocals, was a UK Top 20 hit.
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 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.
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.
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, the Everly Brothers had 30 chart singles, 29 in the top 40, 13 top 10 and 4 at No. 1 between 1957 and 1984. They have had 12 top 40 albums, between 1960 and 2009.
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 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 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 Simon and Garfunkel's Old Friends 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. The live album of the tour Old Friends: Live on Stage contains Simon and 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. 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.
The late singer and songwriter Elliott Smith made reference to the song "Cathy's Clown" in his "Waltz No. 2":
The Beatles based the vocal arrangement of "Please Please Me" upon "Cathy's Clown".
Keith Richards called Don Everly "one of the finest rhythm players."
Jack White, and The Raconteurs, featuring Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe, in their acoustic version of "Old Enough," reference "Wake Up Little Susie" in a portion of the bridge.