The Everly Brothers

  • Rock & Roll duo from Shenandoah Iowa formed in 1951. The brothers were Don and Phil Everly. Don is still alive, while Phil died in 2014 at the age of 74. They played guitar and sang in close harmony – Don sang baritone and Phil sang tenor.
  • Their father had a radio program in the mid-40s in Iowa, performing as the Everly Family. The brothers sang as Little Donnie and Baby Boy Phil. The family moved to Tennessee in 1953, and the boys landed in Nashville. After high school, they focused on a career in music.
  • Chet Atkins, guitarist and creator of the country music style that came to be known as the Nashville sound, discovered the brothers. In 1956, he arranged for them to record a song written by Don, called Keep a-Lovin’ Me. The song flopped, and the record label dropped them. Atkins then introduced them to a publisher, who signed them to write songs, and by 1957, a record label heard them sing and signed them to record. Their first single was Bye Bye Love. The song was rejected by 30 other acts before the Everly Brothers recorded it. It reached #2 on the pop chart, #1 on the country chart, and #5 on the R&B chart.
  • Their follow up single was even bigger – Wake Up Little Susie hit #1 on all 3 charts. Suddenly, they had become superstars.
  • A self titled debut studio album was released in 1958 that featured these 2 singles. Rolling Stone ranks Bye Bye Love as #207 on their list of the Greatest Songs of All Time. Wake Up Little Susie is ranked #311. Wake Up Little Susie was considered controversial and was banned in Boston because of its story of a teen couple that fall asleep during a movie and wake up past curfew.
  • Later in 1958, the single All I Have to Do Is Dream was released. It is ranked #141 on the Greatest Songs chart. It is the only song ever to be #1 on all of the Billboard single charts at the same time. The song received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2004.
  • From 1960 to 1962, they had 8 singles reach the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with 1 song – Cathy’s Clown – making it to #1, selling over 8 million copies globally. During the 60s, they released 1 or 2 studio albums each year, as well as numerous compilation albums.
  • By the end of the 60s, their new music was no longer popular. Tensions between the two surfaced, and in 1973, at their final live performance that year, Phil smashed his guitar and stormed off the stage, leaving Don to finish the show.
  • They began solo careers for 10 years, starting in 1973, with modest success. In 1983, they held a reunion concert in London. It was well received, and the brothers recorded 3 more studio albums between 1984 and 1988. They periodically worked with other artists into the 90s and 00s. By 2011, Phil was dealing with COPD, and his last public appearance was at Buddy Holly’s induction to the Hollywood Boulevard’s Star Walk of Fame. He died of lung disease in 2014.
  • The brothers notoriously clashed for much of their careers, and for most of their final 25 years before Phil’s death, they were estranged.
  • Their singing is their signature, and it highly influenced numerous artists for many years, including the Beatles (who referred to themselves as “The English Everly Brothers”), the Bee Gees, the Beach Boys, and Simon and Garfunkel.
  • They were part of the inaugural class of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. They received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997, and in 2004, Rolling Stone ranked them #33 on their list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
  • As I’ve said many times in this blog, harmony attracts me to music more than anything else. The Everly Brothers took harmony to a level that no other artists had done before. Here’s a clip that shows them performing Wake Up Little Susie.

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