EVERLY BROTHERS

The Everly Brothers were responsible for revealing the possibilities for close, two-part harmonizing as the primary focus in rock music, thereby greatly influencing later acts such as the Beatles, the Hollies, Simon and Garfunkel, the Byrds, the Turtles, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. They also pioneered the use of country influences—not only the high-lonesome vocals, but the emphasis on melody and Appalachian-styled acoustic guitar work—within a pop-rock context. Their sound remains timeless, as evidenced by the chart-topping success of Extreme’s Everlys knock-off, "More Than Words" (A&M 1552) in 1991.

Don and Phil Everly—born February 1, 1937 and January 19, 1939, respectively, in Brownie, Kentucky—began singing with their parents, well-known country performers Ike and Margaret Everly, on KMA-radio, Shenandoah, Iowa, beginning in 1945. Shortly after forming as a straight country duo in 1954, the brothers signed with Columbia. Failing to achieve success, they eventually were taken on by Cadence in part due to their photogenic good looks; label owner/producer Archie Bleyer was interested at the time in breaking into the newly emerging teen market.

The debut single, "Bye Bye Love" (Cadence 1315; 1957; #2), featuring their aching vocals augmented by electric guitar flourishes and a lilting rock ‘n’ roll beat, was a smash hit, providing the direction for a long string of chart successes with the label, including "Wake Up Little Susie" (Cadence 1337; 1957; #1), "All I Have to Do Is Dream" (Cadence 1348; 1958; #1), "Bird Dog"/"Devoted to You" (Cadence 1350; #1/#10), "Problems" (Cadence 1355; 1958; #2), "(‘Til) I Kissed You" (Cadence 1369; 1959; #4), "Let It Be Me" (Cadence 1376; 1960; #7), and "When Will I Be Loved" (Cadence 1380; 1960; #8). In addition to the extraordinary musicality of the Everlys, the popularity of these discs owed much to high quality material (often composed by the husband-and-wife team of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant) and peerless Nashville studio musicians. The lovely echoed guitar work by Chet Atkins in the Bryants’ "All I Have to Do Is Dream," for instance, all but guaranteed the song’s success.

The duo switched labels when offered a lucrative contract by the fledging Warner Bros. in 1960. A number of the Warner releases—including the singles "Cathy’s Clown" (Warner Bros. 5151; 1960; #1), "So Sad" (Warner Bros. 5163; 1960; #7), and "Walk Right Back" (Warner Bros. 5199; 1961; #7), and the albums It’s Everly Time! (Warner Bros. 1381; 1960; #9) and A Date with the Everly Brothers (Warner Bros. 1395; 1960; #9)—represented their creative apex, thanks in part to more thorough, polished production work. However, the Everlys also exhibited a greater inclination to record middle-of-the-road, maudlin material during this period, most notably, "Ebony Eyes" (Warner Bros. 5199; 1961; #8), "Crying in the Rain" (Warner Bros. 5501; 1962; #6), and "That’s Old Fashioned" (Warner Bros. 5273; 1962; #9).

By 1963, the Everly Brothers were finding it hard to crack the Top Forty, despite the release of many excellent recordings. Shifting their artistic focus to albums did little to help matters; the pioneering country-rock concept LP, Roots (Warner Bros. 1752; 1968), considered by many to be the duo’s most sophisticated effort up to that time, attracted little attention. A string of further commercial failures culminated in an acrimonious split in 1973.

A decade of futile solo projects, however, spurred a reunion in 1983. A moderately successful live album, The Everly Brothers Reunion Concert (Passport 11001; 1984; #162), recorded September 1983 at London’s Albert Hall led to several well-crafted country-pop releases with PolyGram: EB 84 (Mercury 822431; 1984; #8)—fueled largely by the Paul McCartney-penned single, "On the Wings of a Nightingale" (Mercury; 1984; #50) and a nostalgic video which received heavy MTV rotation, "Born Yesterday" (Mercury 826142; 1986; #83), and Some Hearts (Mercury 832520; 1989). Due to increasingly marginal sales, virtually no recordings have been released by the Everlys from 1990 onward. Nevertheless, they continue to perform, regularly receive accolades as elder statesmen of rock—including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1986) and treatment in musicals such as Bye Bye Love:The Everly Brothers Musical (1998) and Dream, Dream, Dream (2000)—and are well represented on compact disc by a host of album reissues and anthologies, most notably on Charly in England and Rhino in the U.S.

Back to Rise of Rock n' Roll Back to Table of Contents