Personalities | The Everly Brothers | Fifties | Rock

The Everlys were born into a country music family; Don on 1 February 1937 in Brownie, Kentucky; Phil in Chicago – where father Ike had moved to play in bands with his brothers – on 19 January 1939.

The family moved to Shenandoah, Iowa, to a regular slot on a local radio station, and Ike and Margaret’s young sons soon started performing with them on the Everly Family Radio Show. Their career choice had been made.

Nashville Next

With the family settled in Knoxville, Tennessee, Ike used his friendship with legendary guitarist Chet Atkins to get his boys a foothold in the Nashville music business. Atkins introduced them to Wesley Rose of the influential Acuff-Rose publishing partnership. Don managed to place a song with Kitty Wells, which sold reasonably well, but times were tough. They released a straight country single in early 1956 on Columbia, but it flopped, and it was not until Rose persuaded Archie Bleyer at Cadence to take them on that their star rose.

He teamed them with the songwriting couple Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, and in mid-1957 the pop-rockabilly of ‘Bye Bye Love’ zoomed to No. 2 in the US, 6 in the UK. It contained all the elements that made the Everlys. The audience could hear the Kentucky /Appalachian deep country origins of the close harmonies – with Don taking the melody. These had been handed down from other sibling groups such as The Delmore Brothers and Louvin Brothers; and yet there was a freshness to their approach, and a strong acknowledgement of rock’n’roll that pointed forwards.

This is evident in the fine Little Richard and Gene Vincent covers on their excellent self-titled debut album (1958). It is interesting to note that when Vincent re-recorded ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’ he followed the Everlys’ up-tempo arrangement to a tee. Their influence on The Beatles (The Everlys’ version of Ray Charles’ ‘Leave My Woman Alone’ is a prime example), The Byrds, The Beach Boys, and Simon & Garfunkel is obvious from the earliest days, as hit followed hit; the mildly risqué ‘Wake Up Little Susie’ (1957), the heavenly ballad ‘All I Have To Do Dream’, the humorous ‘Bird Dog’ (both 1958) and the first self-penned smash ‘(‘Til) I Kissed You (1959)’. But a bitter split with manager Wesley Rose, however, heralded a move to the newly founded Warner Brothers recording wing on a much-trumpeted, million-dollar 10-year contract.

Brothers With Warner

Their first offering at the new label was the moody psychodrama of ‘Cathy’s Clown’ (1960), fleshed out by far more echo than they had used previously. The Beatles would later admit they had based the arrangement of ‘Please Please Me’ on this track. Further big sellers ensued, ‘Lucille’ (1960), ‘Walk Right Back’, innovative pop epic ‘Temptation’ (both 1961) and albums It’s Everly Time! (1960) and A Date With The Everly Brothers (1961). But troubles loomed. They aborted their projected film career; had to serve a six-month stint in the...

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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