Don Everly, the lower-register harmony voice of the duo, the Everly Brothers, died this week. Don was usually the lead singer of the group. He was the older brother to Phil (who died in 2014; see Mister Boomer’s Bye, Bye Love: Another Boomer Icon Has Passed).
As previously noted, Chet Atkins was instrumental in getting the brothers their first record deal, and the duo burst on the scene in 1957 with Bye Bye Love. They had a string of Top Ten hits in the late fifties and early sixties.
Both brothers enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1961, and shortly after boot camp, performed in uniform on The Ed Sullivan Show, singing Crying In the Rain. They were released from the Marine Corps in 1962, after six months of service. The popularity of their brand of country/folk/rock was fading as the British Invasion hit the U.S. in 1964, but the brothers continued to record and perform.
The duo famously broke up in mid-concert in 1973 when brother Phil walked off the stage. It is reported the brothers did not speak to each other for a decade. However, they did reunite for a concert in 1983, recorded a new album a year later, and performed together occasionally for another decade.
In 2018, Phil’s surviving family filed a copyright claim to half the royalties of the song, Cathy’s Clown (written in 1960). Don sued the estate of his brother to reclaim his copyright, stating that Phil signed a release giving up his rights to the song and acknowledged that Don was the sole writer of the song. The two brothers were listed as co-writers on the record and shared in royalties until 1980.
Known for their harmonies, the brothers also penned several songs together, though their biggest hits were written by others. They also are listed as sole songwriters on several tunes that became hits for other bands. For instance, Phil wrote their classic tune, When Will I Be Loved (1960), which became a huge hit for Linda Ronstadt in 1975.
Songs Don wrote:
(Till) I Kissed You – 1959; Chet Atkins played guitar on the record, and Jerry Allison of the Crickets played drums
Cathy’s Clown – 1960; *disputed by Phil, who claimed the two of them wrote it together
So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad) – 1960; it was recorded by several artists in the 1960s and ’70s
The Facts of Life -1964
The Drop Out – 1964
I Used to Love You – 1965
Why Wasn’t I Born Rich? – 1967; recorded by Cliff Richard
(Till) I Kissed You and Cathy’s Clown were bona fide hits for the brothers. The others failed to chart or were released by other country, R&B or rock groups.
The brothers were inducted into the inaugural class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and were given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.
Mister Boomer has a personal connection to songs by the Everly Brothers, as previously mentioned when Phil passed away. His appreciation of their music has expanded as an adult, and he can see why so many artists and bands of the early days of rock and roll were so influenced by their sound.
Do you have fond memories of listening to the Everly Brothers? Did you take sides in the battle of the brothers, boomers?