January 3, 2014 – Phil Everly was born on January 19th 1939 in Chicago, Illinois, into a musical family. His father, Ike who was also a musician had a show on KMA and KFNF in Shenandoah, Iowa, in the 1940s, with his wife Margaret and their two young sons, Don and Phil.
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 before moving to Knoxville, Tennessee, where the brothers attended Knox West High School, continuing their musical development. The boys caught the attention of Chet Atkins who became an early champion.
Discovered in the mid 1950s, Don and Phil Everly recorded and wrote many country inspired songs, but not until they hooked up with songwriter husband and wife Felice Bryant and Diadorius Boudleaux Bryant and recorded a song hat had been turned down 30 times by other performers, “Bye Bye Love”, did they break huge onto the late fifties R&R scene. Other global hits with songs from the Bryant’s were “Wake Up Little Susie”, “All I have to do is dream”, “Bird Dog”, “Love Hurts” plus another 2 dozen or so, catapulting the Everly Brothers into a phenomenon of early Rock and Roll, reaching almost the size of Elvis’ fame.
The brothers toured with Buddy Holly in 1957 and 1958. According to Holly’s biographer Philip Norman, they changed Holly and the Crickets from dressing in 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.”
Both brothers became skilled songwriters as well, which allowed them to keep their music career going through the first couple of years in the sixties, as they signed a 10 year contract with Warner Bros in 1960. First of the bat in that year they wrote and performed “Cathy’s Clown”, which sold 8 million copies. Forced enlistment in the US Marine Corps Reserves in October 1961 can be pinpointed as the beginning of their decline. They never stopped working as a duo but their last United States Top Ten hit was 1962’s “That’s Old Fashioned”.
The music of the Everly Brothers influenced the Beatles, who referred to themselves as “the English Everly Brothers” when Paul and John went hitch-hiking south to win a talent competition and based the vocal arrangement of “Please Please Me” on “Cathy’s Clown”. Keith Richards called Don Everly “one of the finest rhythm players”. Paul Simon, who worked with the pair on “Graceland“, said 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 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. 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.
He was two weeks short of his 75th Birthday when he died from emphysema and bronchitis on 3 January 2014.