Boomers Lose a Second Everly Brother

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?


Bye, Bye Love: Another Boomer Icon Has Passed

Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers died January 3, 2014, at the age of 74; but his influence on generations of songwriters and singers lives on.

Born in Chicago, Illinois on January 19, 1939, Phil was the younger brother to Don, who was born two years earlier. The boys were surrounded by music their entire lives, since their parents were country western singers Ike and Margaret Everly. Phil’s father had a radio show in Shenandoah, Iowa in the 1940s, which gave the brothers their first chance at singing together. The family performed in the area as the Everly Family.

When Phil was in high school, the family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. The brothers developed a sound based on folk music from their Kentucky roots, country music and early rock ‘n roll and attempted to venture out as a duo. The most distinctive aspect of their sound was their angelic harmonies, with Phil taking the higher register to Don’s lower. Chet Atkins, a friend of their father, noticed the talent of the brothers and got them a record deal with Columbia Records. The brothers released a single that flopped, and were dropped by Columbia, but Atkins encouraged them to continue. In late 1956, Atkins introduced them to Wesley Rose of Acuff-Rose music publishers. Impressed with their songwriting talent, he assured the brothers that if they signed on with him, he could get them a recording deal. In February 1957 the brothers signed with Cadence Records and recorded Bye Bye Love. It became their first million-selling record, hitting no. 2 on the pop charts (second only to Elvis Presley’s Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear). It also hit no. 1 on the country charts and no. 5 on the R&B charts, exhibiting the popularity of the duo across musical genres. This skyrocketed the Everly Brothers to a standing on par with their chart-topping contemporaries, Pat Boone and Elvis Presley.

The Everly Brothers toured with Buddy Holly from 1957 to 1958. Phil and his brother Don were well on their way to becoming legends. From the start they recorded a mix of tunes penned by themselves and other songwriters. The majority of their earliest hits had been written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, husband and wife songwriters assigned to Acuff-Rose, including Bye Bye Love (1957), Wake Up Little Susie (1957), All I Have to Do Is Dream (1958) and Bird Dog (1958). In 1960 the brothers signed with Warner Brothers. After a falling out with Wesley Rose, who had become their manager, the duo was cut off from their earliest source of hit-song material, yet they had written great tunes as songwriters for Acuff-Rose, including Phil’s When Will I Be Loved (1959).

Ironically, the Beatles’ star was rising when the brothers’ popularity had begun to fade with British Invasion of 1964. Paul McCartney has said the Everly Brothers were a huge influence on the band. He and Lennon once referred to Beatles as the “English Everlys.” When he first heard All I Have To Do is Dream in 1958, he immediately took it to John Lennon. He said the two fashioned their harmonies after the Everly Brothers, and even patterned the harmonies on Please Please Me (1963) after Cathy’s Clown (1960).

The list of bands that have named the Everly Brothers as inspiration and influence reads like a Who’s Who of music in the 1960s and ’70s, including the Beatles, the Byrds and the Beach Boys — and that’s just the “B” bands! Add Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and many more to the list.

Phil famously walked offstage on July 14, 1973, when the brothers were performing at Knotts Berry Farm in California. For the next ten years Phil and Don would be solo acts. They reunited in 1983, recording new music until 1998. Even after they stopped releasing records, they continued to perform together and with some of the very acts that been influenced by them, including Simon & Garfunkel in 2003.

The brothers were among the first ten people inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and were given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.

Mister Boomer’s connection to Phil and the Everly Brothers is a personal one. Too young to hear their earliest recordings when they were first released, he does recall hearing their hits played on the radio in the mid-60s, including Cathy’s Clown, Bird Dog, Let It Be Me (1960) and Devoted to You (1958). The one song that Mister B will forever remember as his favorite Everly Brothers song, however, is All I Have to Do Is Dream. While in high school, he dated a young lady from a neighboring town. It seemed like every time he dropped by her house, her older brother was playing the Everly Brothers records. She became a big fan of the music from her brother’s records. One night, sitting in the car after a pleasant date, she decided to teach Mister B a few things about kissing. The radio played All I Have to Do Is Dream. A partnership was never meant to be, but the memory was forever etched in Mister B’s mind.

What memories of Phil Everly and the Everly Brothers do you cherish, boomers?