The Everly Brothers

The Everly Brothers are one of the top acts in rock-and-roll history and, perhaps, are more responsible than anyone for moving country songs onto the pop charts.

Ike Everly and to a lesser extent, his wife Margaret, were well-known in the South and the Midwest as folk and country music performers. Ike was a guitar player who had been influenced by Merle Travis, Sam McGee and other country music artists earlier in the Twentieth Century. Isaac Donald Everly was born in Brownie, Kentucky in 1937 and his brother Philip was born in Chicago two years later. The boys began singing with their parents at ages eight and six respectively, a practice that they continued through high school. By the mid-40's Ike and Margaret had a radio show in Iowa and were joined on it by their sons Don and Phil. The boys both learned to play the guitar. When their parents retired in the 50's, Don and Phil struck out on their own.

They went to Nashville at the invitation of Chet Atkins in 1955 and began to write songs for Acuff-Rose. They recorded a single on Columbia called Keep On Lovin' Me that made the country charts. Kitty Wells had a number 14 hit in 1954 with Thou Shalt Not Steal, a song that had been written by Don Everly.

The Everly Brothers signed a recording contract with Archie Bleyer's Cadence label in 1957. They recorded a song that had been written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant on the Cadence label and suddenly had their first big hit with Bye Bye Love, which reached number one on the country charts and crossed over to reach number two on the pop charts, in addition to being a hit in England. Bye Bye Love sold huge amounts in advance orders before anyone had ever even heard the song. At the time country music was in a bit of decline as rock-and-roll music, led by Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and others was becoming increasingly popular. The Everly Brothers' recording of Bye Bye Love rejuvenated the music business in Nashville, and it established Don and Phil Everly as legendary performers. Phil was married for some time to the daughter of another artist on the Cadence label, Janet Bleyer of the Chordettes.

From 1957 to 1959, they had six top ten songs on the country charts and seven top ten's on the pop charts. Many of their recordings were written by the Bryants, whose country-flavored compositions helped to add a new dimension to rock-and-roll. Three songs that were written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant and recorded by the Everly Brothers reached number one on the pop charts: Wake Up Little Susie, All I Have To Do Is Dream, and Bird Dog. By the early 60's the Everlys got into a dispute over royalties with Cadence and switched over to the Warner Brothers label, on which they had their fourth and final number one pop hit with Cathy's Clown in 1960.

The Everlys also recorded LP's; their first was The Everly Brothers in 1958, a number sixteen album. It was followed by one that was not commercially successful, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, which paid homage to their roots with some excellent versions of traditional songs before the brothers became huge stars and their lives became very hectic.

In the late 50's and early 60's, the Everly Brothers were riding high. Cadence compiled their hits on an album called Fabulous Style of the Everly Brothers in 1960. Many other albums followed in the 60's, including one, Roots on Warner Brothers in 1968, which included parts of their radio broadcasts with their parents when Don and Phil were children. In the early 60's they also continued to put out hit songs: Let It Be Me, Ebony Eyes, and Crying In The Rain, among other hits. By the time of the onslaught of the British Invasion in 1964 they had pretty much run their course, and after that they just barely reached the top forty one more time with Bowling Green in 1967.

The Everly Brothers continued on in the entertainment business. They had a summer television series on CBS. In 1972 they signed with RCA and made some more records, backed by a band that included Waddy Wachtel on guitar and Warren Zevon on keyboards. Don and Phil were both having personal problems. The unrelenting performance schedule led to an addiction to speed for both. Don had a nervous breakdown. They were feuding with each other, and this culminated in a violent breakup between the two in the Summer of 1973 when Phil smashed his guitar to pieces on stage and walked out. According to Don, the Everly Brothers "died ten years ago."

Don wrote more songs and made some solo albums in the 70's for labels such as Ode and Hickory. A song that had been written by Phil and made the top ten for the Everly Brothers in 1960, When Will I Be Loved, was covered by Linda Ronstadt and made the top ten once again in 1975. Phil made solo albums on a variety of labels in the 70's and hosted a radio program that he called In Session.

In September of 1983, the Everly Brothers made peace with each other and reunited as a singing duo. They recorded some albums together in the 80's that made it to the best seller charts. They retained their popularity in England. In 1990, Don's daughter Erin was married briefly to Axl Rose of the rock group Guns N' Roses.

The Everly Brothers have never spoken publicly about their split. In 1986, they were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Most Recent Update: April 20, 2000

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