“Sister Susie, brother John
Martin Luther, Phil and Don
Brother Michael, Auntie Gin
Open the door and let ’em in, yeah”
“Let ‘Em In”
They were the heroes of our heroes.
The first Everly Brothers song I remember hearing was “All I Have to Do Is Dream” from Jan & Dean’s 1965 live album “Command Performance.”
For a while there, the SoCal sound, of surfing, beaches and cars, coexisted with the British Invasion. Unlike Fabian and Perry Como, the L.A. acts weren’t immediately wiped from the map. As a matter of fact, “I Get Around” was a huge hit in the summer of ’64, and of course “California Girls” was monstrous in the summer of ’65, but by that point Jan & Dean and most of the striped-shirt sneaker crowd were done.
But I loved the SoCal sound before the Beatles broke. I can still remember hearing “Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)” at the beach when it was a hit and the teenagers were grooving to it in what was called “the pit” in front of the pavilion, and I was still on the outside looking in, still a youngster, far from cool, but infected by the sound.
So I bought “Command Performance” because it had the hits. I was never a singles guy, they were never a good economic proposition, the B-side always stunk and you paid 69¢ for the two songs when you could get ten or twelve for $1.99, and eventually $2.52, before everything became stereo and they raised the price a dollar, before singles went to 99¢. And of course we had the Beatles albums immediately, and at first many thought they were a fad, like hula-hoops, our parents indulged us, but that did not turn out to be the case. But with Jan & Dean it was a value proposition, the live album had all the hits, from “Surf City” to “Dead Man’s Curve” to “The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)” to “Sidewalk Surfin’.” But it also had covers like “I Get Around,” and “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy” and “Louie Louie” and…”All I Have to Do Is Dream.”
“I can make you mine
Taste your lips of wine
Anytime night or day
Only trouble is, gee whiz
I’m dreamin’ my life away”
I know those words by heart, because I played “Command Performance” so much that it turned gray, which used to happen with overplay with the heavy tonearms of the all-in-one record players of the day. But I did not know it was an Everly Brothers hit, the credits just listed the writer, Boudelaux Bryant, and when the track was originally a hit in 1958, I was five.
And now I was eleven.
But with the explosion of the Beatles came tons more information, you started to hear the stories of the acts, about their influences.
And then “Bye Bye Love” was on Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” in an infectious live rendition, and Paul Simon testified to his love of the Everly Brothers.
Now by time we hit the seventies, there was a rock press, and there started to be an excavation of all those who’d had hits in the fifties, before the Beatles, the influences. You’d read about Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, and the Everly Brothers. The new acts were so big that they lifted all boats, and suddenly we’d see these acts on TV, but they didn’t have hits, they were out of time, just like the haircuts the Everly Brothers wore in the fifties.
When the Beatles broke the “dry look” became prevalent, it rode out the sixties. The Beatles killed product, certainly for men, although we still saw ads for Dippity-do. The Everly Brothers were greasers. We didn’t expect them to show up on motorcycles, to hang with the Hell’s Angels, but the fifties were in black and white and the sixties were in color, by the end of the decade every household had a color TV, it was like the flat screen rage of ten years ago. The Everlys were dated. Although they seemed to be bigger in England, where they embraced American roots, unlike in the home country, where we threw them overboard when the hits dried up.
And then came Paul McCartney’s song “Let ‘Em In.”
“Band on the Run” was a complete surprise. McCartney seemed to have lost his touch. “Wild Life” was for the hardcore only. And “Red Rose Speedway” had the execrable “My Love.” But “Band on the Run” had a rock edge we thought Paul had lost, the album was gigantic and although “Venus and Mars” was not quite as good, it had an element of whimsy its predecessor lacked, but in 1976 it was followed up by Wings’ “At the Speed of Sound,” which coincided with the massive U.S. tour, but after this album Paul never had the credibility he possessed earlier, he never reached the same heights, because of two tracks, “Silly Love Songs” and “Cook of the House.” The previous was lightweight fare made for AM radio in an era when all the action was happening on FM where the music was heavier, and the latter was seen as an abomination, it was bad enough Linda had to play in the group, but did she really have to sing this inane song?
But I bought “At the Speed of Sound” anyway. Because it was Paul McCartney. And because I had a cross-country drive, from Salt Lake to Connecticut, and I needed tunes, so believe me, the album is embedded in my brain.
And the truth is “At the Speed of Sound” is not in the league of what came before, but there are some more than memorable tunes, like “Warm and Beautiful” and “Beware My Love” and Denny Laine’s “Time to Hide.” But the opener was “Let ‘Em In.” Referencing Phil and Don.
It was clear who Paul was singing about, they came right out of the speakers, the legends, the progenitors. Elvis was something unto himself, Little Richard and Jerry Lee and Carl Perkins were an earthier rock sound, the kind the Beatles played in Hamburg, but there was a direct connection between the Everly Brothers and so much of what came out of the radio from the mid-sixties to the seventies. There was melody, it was about songs more than records. The Mamas & the Papas were not a huge step away. But really all the ballads of the British bands, they all seemed to be influenced by the Everlys. And then came the singer-songwriters at the turn of the decade and it seemed the Everlys had more influence than any other pre-Beatles act, but they did not capitalize on it. You see they were fighting.
That became the story of the Everly Brothers, now that we were paying attention, they couldn’t get along. And if you were born in the forties and experienced their hits firsthand, this was probably gut-wrenching, as the Beatles breakup was for those of us born in the fifties. But to the younger generation, the Everlys were more cartoons than legends.
But then they had a victory lap. They opened for Simon & Garfunkel on their 2003 reunion tour. It was a last hurrah for both Simon & Garfunkel and the Everlys and I’ve thought about it a lot as the years have gone by, that Staples show was one of my three best of the twenty first century, along with Adele at the Greek and U2 at the Forum with the screens they walked between. You can still see Adele and U2. But the other acts? Well, Garfunkel lost his voice and by time it came back Simon no longer wanted to go on the road. As for the Everlys? They’re dead.
But I remember remarking about the audience at Staples to Jay. They were OLD! White hair. On the verge of retirement. I’d never seen such an old crowd at a rock show before. Now we’re the old crowd. We have white hair. We are on the verge of retirement.
But when the Everlys stood on stage and played the songs we now knew, and knew they’d done, it was like the good old days all over again, the two of them with acoustic guitars strapped around their necks singing perfect harmonies in each other’s faces. It was weird. It wasn’t like they were grinning, chewing the scenery, enjoying themselves, it was like they were the same as they ever were, but now I could see it and experience it, and get it.
But thereafter nothing.
And then Phil died in 2014 and now Don yesterday. Twitter blew up last night. The L.A. “Times” obituary went up almost instantaneously, it had obviously been pre-written, because at some point in the not too distant future, they knew Don was going to pass. And then he did.
84. That used to be old, but not anymore. People regularly live until 90 these days. People don’t think they’ve had a full ride until they reach that plateau, or maybe 89. And the truth is so many of our rock heroes have died before their time. Never mind the four original Ramones being dead, so many performers of the classic rock era are already dead and buried, dust in the wind, even though they were in their late sixties and early seventies. And you should see the Stones this time around if you’re ever planning to do so, this could be the last time, Charlie Watts couldn’t even make it. Arlo Guthrie had to retire. The sun is setting on our generation. And we seem to be the only ones who care.
We thought they were icons, the biggest stars in the stratosphere. But it turns out the younger generations don’t feel the same way about them, and they live in more of a song-based as opposed to act-based era. Tracks come and go, whereas if you made it in the early days of rock, during the classic rock era, you were a legend that lasted forever, above the politicians, superseding the athletes, you were gods!
Because of that sound that came out of the radio. You got a feeling you could not get anywhere else. That spoke your story, that rode shotgun, that gave you insight.
It wasn’t only Simon & Garfunkel who cut “Bye Bye Love,” so did George Harrison.
And Simon & Garfunkel recorded “Wake Up Little Susie” at their legendary Central Park concert in 1981.
But Paul Simon was born in 1941. Ditto for Art Garfunkel. And George Harrison in 1943.
As for “All I Have to Do is Dream,” not only was it covered by Jan & Dean, but even Richard Chamberlain sang it, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Juice Newton, and R.E.M., and Cat Power. It has truly survived the ages.
And needless to say, Linda Ronstadt rained coin down upon Phil Everly with her cover of “When Will I Be Loved,” from her breakout album “Heart Like a Wheel.” And honestly, I did not know it was an Everlys tune when I first heard it, because it was first a hit in 1960, when I was seven. But Linda Ronstadt was already fourteen, and at that age a few years make all the difference.
A few years back, well, at the beginning of this century, I saw Ronstadt at the Universal Amphitheatre. But now not only does that venue no longer exist, Rondstadt no longer sings. Time is passing.
So if you were a certain age the Everly Brothers were as big as it got. They were formative influences when all you had was the radio and black and white TV, when everybody knew all the hits and they were much bigger than anything today. Hell, the Everlys’ music lives on more than sixty years later.
Because it had such an influence on the acts that pushed music into the number one artistic medium. Music made more than movies and built the Warner Cable system. Music was a money machine. But even more it affected people’s hearts and minds. You can see an old actor in the grocery store and marvel, but when you see an old musician your heart starts to pitter-patter, your eyes start to bug, THAT’S THE GUY WHO WROTE AND PERFORMED THOSE SONGS!
But it won’t be long before those guys (and gals!) are gone.
And what they represent is on the periphery now. Rich voices singing melodic songs while playing analog instruments. Seems like a lost art when you look back and gain perspective. But the records are still here, at this point the records supersede the artists who made them, they’ve become part of our DNA.
And in many ways the Everly Brothers were there first. They established the paradigm. And I was too young to be there, to be infected, but the people I was listening to ate up all those records, Phil & Don were gods, no matter what they did thereafter, those tracks were just that big and special. The Everlys are truly one of the building blocks of rock and roll. Which meant so much they created a hall of fame and built a museum to contain it, and the Everlys were installed in the first induction ceremony.
But now that same institution has rappers and pop singers. Being inside is not much different from winning a Grammy. Some of the best acts are never even considered.
But way back when, when it was all starting, when it was new and different, the Everlys were experimenting, pushing the envelope, and the work they did may no longer be in fashion, but it’s still as fresh and direct and meaningful as the day it was released.
And now Don Everly has been released. They’re going to let ’em in upstairs. And so many of his fans are going to be there with him soon. What do they say, heaven’s got a hell of a band?
Spotify playlist: https://spoti.fi/3sEmedJ
Responses from Bob’s readers. Please note, these comments are not edited for grammar or content.
Gut wrenching it was …
I first saw Don & Phil in 62 at the London, New Victoria theater on a tour with Ketty Lester. They were backed by the Crickets . It was the first time I heard records done right on stage. Oh, what a feeling …
In late 63 the Rolling Stones and Mickie Most were bottom of the bill on a 6 week tour of the UK promoted by Don Arden and headlined by the Everly Brothers . Bo Diddley, Jerome and the Duchess were also with us and Little Richard with Billy Preston were added to the second half of the tour. Keith later called that tour his university.
So many British songs you were weaned on were written by songslingers who warmed up on Don & Phil and Buddy Holly.
When the Everly Brothers sang they spoke to each other and they spoke for us.
With extreme and forever gratitude,
Andrew Loog Oldham
The Everly Brothers were the reason I wanted to be a musician. I was sixteen, and I took a girl to what was called a “sock hop,” held in the gym of Amherst Central High School in the suburbs of Buffalo. It was hosted by a local popular DJ, Guy King of WWOL. They had set up a riser in front of the bleachers and Guy escorted the brothers up some make-shift stairs to a couple of waiting microphones. He introduced them to a crowd of probably 500 or so teenagers, many of whom had never heard of the Everly Brothers, since their first record had just been released. But when they strapped on their twin Gibson J-200s and pounded out the opening chords to “Bye, Bye Love,” the kids went wild. The girl I was with forgot all about me – she couldn’t take her eyes off the stage. I knew immediately that I needed to get up on that stage myself.
I knew a few chords on a guitar I had borrowed from my uncle, but I wasn’t serious. The Everly Brothers lit a fire under me that night: the sound of those two strummed acoustics and those amazing voices that were so perfectly in time with each other mesmerized me. And when Guy King talked them into playing “Wake Up, Little Susie,” which was to be their second single, I noticed that one of them put a capo on his guitar. I had never seen one of those and it made me realized how much I didn’t know.
A dozen years later, in the summer of 1970, I was in Linda Ronstadt’s band when she made a guest appearance on the Everly Brothers’ short-lived variety series on ABC. I finally got a chance to tell them how much they meant to me, and they were beyond gracious. Like everybody in the music world, I’m sad today, but pleased to see Don and his brother get all the accolades they deserve.
It’s probably unnecessary for me to say this, but beyond having one of the most singular and amazing voices of recorded history, Don Everly was a soulful, gifted and prolific songwriter and his rhythm guitar playing was truly iconic. Regardless of their personal differences and difficulties, he and Phil were magnificent both in the recording studio and live. Their fraternal blend and lifetime of professionalism was astonishing.
I bailed on joining my collaborators and pals Dewey and Gerry of America onstage for a gig at the Universal Amphitheater one night to instead go see the Everly’s at the Greek. It was an absolutely great show.
Donald, who sang lead on every Everly recording, never really sang his solo parts the same way. He always brought a new interpretation to those well crafted songs, night after night… decade after decade. He struggled with depression and substance abuse and all the trappings that can befall a star, but he left us a lot of beautiful music that surely endures. There’s an abundance of solo Don Everly recordings worth exploring beyond the Brothers fantastic catalogue.
Margaret Everly, mother of Donald and Phillip, now age 102, deserves a prayer. Or two.
Still in Laurel Canyon
I teched for Paul Simon
Looking out from the stage a tremendous number of people would cry as they sang along with the Everly Brothers during their nightly segment in the middle of the show
When they showed for the first rehearsals, Donald’s guitar had a note woven through the strings from Robert Steinegger ( builder of their “ Ike Everly ” guitars ) it was dated some 16 years earlier Phil’s guitar was in similar condition
…And when they walked on that stage they sounded exactly like the “Everly Brothers”
Cheers, Michael K
1958 — in my Xmas stocking — Santa left my first 45 — “Bird Dog” b/w “Devoted To You” by the Everly Brothers on Cadence.
My life changed right then.
Hi Bob: My dad was born in 1940 and he LOVED the Everly Brothers . . . I have not heard these songs in decades, but I could sing along with every word today as they provided the soundtrack of the first decade of my life and you never forget those songs. I always thought I was the only person in my age group who had ever even heard of the Everly Brothers, much less know their music . . . they just never came up in discussions throughout all my years at a label.
To your point of Europeans embracing American roots, I have a very vivid recollection of talking to my boss’ father one time and he asked what type of music I grew up with. He’s from Denmark and moved to the States in the 80’s – he’s currently 92! I said Beatles, Elvis, Johnny Mathis (thanks Mom!) and the Everly Brothers, saying that last name with a “you’ve never heard of them” in my voice. He latched on to that and launched into how influential Phil and Don were.
Anyways, reading about Don’s death made me think of my father and the hours and hours we spun Every Brothers vinyl and sang along. Lucky for me, I still have both parents – I bet Dad pulled out one or two of those records yesterday.
NYC-based Cadence Records’ founder/owner Archie Bleyer, one of the sharpest indy label pioneers of all time, signed the Everly Brothers and produced their long run of hits. Some of the tunes were the brothers’ compositions, other equally successful ones were written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. Paul Lanning
The guitar playing impressed me. The rhythm guitar on “Wake Up, Little Susie” had an urgency and propulsive quality that was a complete break from folk-style guitar playing. It was a lot closer to Pete Townshend’s attitude than Peter, Paul, and Mary’s, that’s for sure.
I was 11 when you were 5 so at 16 when I first heard Lennon/McCartney my first thought was Don/Phil. Seeing the brothers on “The Ed Solomon Show” as my grandmother called Sullivan, was every bit as thrilling as seeing The Beatles a few years later. “It’s back!” I told myself after having abandoned rock’n’roll at 15 for Monk, Coltrane and the MJQ. Now I had both! Though to fully grasp what “it” was took time.
The great contribution of the Everlies is their approach to harmony…
A second singer, singing a counter melody, usually a third above the lead vocal..(Almost constantly, in their case)….
Which we take for granted, having heard the Beatles, Eagles, and every other act doing it, our entire lives..
But nobody did it much before them…(and Buddy Holly).
You’d hear Elvis sing a melody, but the background voices, usually a gospel quartet, would function as orchestration..Oohs and aahs, behind the vocal line..Which followed the template set by Bing Crosby, Sinatra, and the country crooners..
Part of the freedom of rock and roll is the self containment, the independence, the DIY spirit…
For me, it was hearing “Wake Up Little Suzie”, on “Happy Days”..How their voices BLENDED..Siblings can naturally match the tones..
The songs and the recordings hold up well, but it’s those harmonies that changed music forever…
“The L.A. “Times” obituary went up almost instantaneously, it had obviously been pre-written, because at some point in the not too distant future, they knew Don was going to pass.”
I used to work in news (in the UK) and, believe me, all newspapers and news outlets have obits ready for everyone newsworthy – in print and film/video. On any slow news day, the news dept has writers updating the obits, some have journalists devoted to just the obits.
I did my fair share at the BBC and at first it was weirdly uncomfortable to do them while the subjects were still alive, but in the news business, sentiment doesn’t last long at all.
I’m also from Liverpool, where the Everlys were Gods. I was a life-long fan, bought all their records and suffered through British airings of The Perry Como Show to see them perform. I actually met Phil before he passed, but never Don.
They were unique and their music still sounds as fresh as when it first came out of that transistor radio.
RIP Don and Phil.
Nice Bill Medley reference there at the end! But if there’s a rock and rollheaven, it’s still just dust in the wind…Seriously, great tribute! I love all those old EB songs, but this just might be my favorite EB track from their Warner Brothers years when they recorded with those great LA session players…in this case the late great Clarence White, one of my longtime Telecaster guitar heroes
I used to sing “Let ’em In” on stage when it was on the charts but I didn’t know that Phil and Don was a reference to the Everly Bros. I guess I’m revealing my young age at 64? hahah..Well I guess you learn something new everyday,,,thanks to guys like you!… Cheers!
Nobody was ever cooler than these guys:
P.S. With all due respect, I was disappointed by this piece on Don Everly- you talked about a whole bunch of other people, said almost nothing about Don himself, or The Everly Brothers. They were one of the greatest artistic entities in the history of Rock, and hit-makers to an historic extreme. Plus, their music is more deeply-rooted in Americana than just about anybody’s: Next time you hear someone talk about a style of guitar-playing called “Travis-picking”, remember that it was Ike Everly who taught Merle Travis how to “Travis-pick”.
In 1965 at the ripe old age of 10, my daddy took me to an automobile convention at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. At some point, we wandered into a small tent where a band was setting up to play. Suddenly, out steps The Everly Brothers, a singing duo I had idolized since I was a wee pup. They held their guitars up to the mics and strummed them real loud and forceful, then out came those voices in perfect harmony… “Johnny is a joker (he’s a bird)… a very funny joker (he’s a bird)…” I thought I had died and gone to heaven, singing along to a record I had owned since I was 5 or 6. This was the first time I had ever seen rock & roll performed live in person. It was the first time I had ever seen a real drum set and was astonished to realize that the kick drum was actually played with a pedal (I had always supposed it to be ornamental). It was also the first time I had ever seen an Ampeg amplifier (I thought everyone used a Fender). This experience was a literal baptism into something that had been waiting for me since I was born. I just needed to experience it in the flesh in order to crystalize what had already been forming in me from the time I became conscious. The deal was really sealed at the end of the concert when the boys were side-stage, smoking cigarettes and signing autographs for pretty teenage girls. It was then and there that I knew without a doubt that this was the life for me! But none of this is as important as the sound of those two brothers singing their hearts out in perfect sibling harmony. It was angelic and otherworldly, and it gets as deep down inside of my soul today as it did when I was a kid. And those songs … so catchy, so beautiful, so rockin’.. with my guitar idol Chet Atkins playing lead and those Nashville cats laying it down like there was no tomorrow. Maybe that’s just it. When I hear that Everly sound, time stands still and there literally is no tomorrow — only yesterday, with those gorgeous harmonies washing over me like they did when everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. Yesterday, we lost an elder statesman and architect of America’s great gift to the world of music. There aren’t too many left alive, and Don’s brother Phil already left us years ago. Without Don Everly and his great songwriting and musical vision, we would have not had The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and innumerable others to guide us along the way with their own musical statements. We would have other things, but we wouldn’t have those harmonies. I, for one, am so grateful to have grown up in a time when music like this was all over the airwaves. It made my life worth living and gave me something to do with it that could maybe bless others similarly. For now, so long Don – I really hope to see you on the other side so I can thank you for all this wonderfulness. R.I.P.
When the plane crashed, Feb 2, 1959, I was 11 and in shock because Holly was so central to the music, and feelings that moved me. My understanding and appreciation of the Everly Brothers was magnified by the loss of Buddy.
In Spring 1959 I clearly remember thinking about the state of pop/rock music and how central the Everlys were, and would continue to be.
Top ten hits that were my faves:
1957 – “Bye Bye Love”
“Wake Up Little Susie”
1958 – “All I Have To do Is Dream” – B/W “Claudette” (written by Roy Orbison)
“Bird Dog” – B/W “Devoted To You” (#10)
1959 – “Take A Message To Mary” (peaked #16)
“(‘Til) I Kissed You” – with The Crickets
1960 – “Let It Be Me” – B/W “Cathy’s Clown” (#1 for 8 weeks!)
“When Will I Be Loved”
“So Sad (To Watch A Good Love Go Bad)”
When the Beatles arrived in 1964 I heard the Buddy Holly and Everly Brothers ‘sound’ again.
I was born in1963 and I missed out on the first wave of rock and roll and the British invasion. My earliest memory of music is hearing CCRs “Looking Out My Backdoor” on the radio.
But when I was in third grade I met a guy on the playground that introduced me to the Beatles, Led Zepplin, the Doors and Dave Clark Five and I haven’t been worth a damn since.
Then comes along Christmas Eve 1978 and I received the best gift a boy of 15 could ever get. My aunt got me an 8 track of Buddy Holly and it just opened all kinds of doors. I then discovered the Everlys, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, etc. As for Elvis, he was always there through his movies for me.
These days it does my heart good when I hear of youngsters discovering historic music. Because a lot of what goes for music these days will be forgotten next week.
A few other points to make about the Everlys:
1) Graham Nash and Allan Clarke idolized them. In Nash’s memoir, Wild Tales, he writes about seeing them in Manchester in the late ‘50s and following them back to their hotel to meet them. There’s a direct line from the Everlys to the Hollies to CS&N. That’s where those harmonies come from.
2) Donny Osmond covered “Wake Up Little Susie” on his first solo album when he was huge in the early ‘70s, introducing it to a whole new generation of teenyboppers almost at the same time Simon and Garfunkel were covering “Bye Bye Love”.
It’s also worth mentioning Foreverly, the charming album of Everlys tunes that Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong did a few years ago. Well worth a listen.
You forgot to mention Fire & Rain’s classic version of ‘Devoted To You!’
When the LA Times stated Don was “survived by his mother,” I thought it was a typo!
Imagine having a child die—essentially of “old age”–while you’re still alive!
I’m 63. My mum (she was a brit, and I’m a half-breed brit) and I butted heads through most of my youth, but the one thing that we could relate to each other on was music. I’ll never forget how she made a point of telling me that she and my dad went to a Bill Haley concert in London sometime in mid ’57, when she was carrying me (I was born December 10th). She recalled how I danced inside her to “Rock Around The Clock”.
Another time she told me how she’d just delivered me, and as she held her first born she could hear, on a transistor radio, somewhere in the background, “Wake Up Little Susie” by the Everly Bros. It was momentous to her, and it still resonates with me to this day. RIP, Don.
Hey, you forgot to mention that Donny Osmond pitched a version of this Everly tune. I only know this ’cause my sister drove me nuts, playing it incessantly! You want some cheese?
I was 12 when “Cathy’s Clown“ came out. I immediately fell in love with the harmonies & the drumbeat. I was hooked to the Everlys. A few years later when the Beatles came out , something sounded familiar to me. It took me a minute and I realized it was the harmonies. I then realized the Beatles actually listened to the Everly Brothers.
It was ok to be influenced by other artists. A nice lesson to learn at an early age. I also remember seeing the Everly Bros on Shindig.
The same thing happed when I heard “ Sounds of Silence” for the first time. The spread of the harmonies were familiar.
Thank you Don & Phil
I met the Everlys when I was sge 6. I was what was then known as a “crippled child”, healed completely 5 years later. But at the time, confined to the house, I was fascinated with their sound and spun the radio dial all day to scour the NY stations for their songs, once “Bye Bye Love” had hit the charts. My father was in the television business, noticed this, and arranged for me to meet with them at a rehearsal for the Perry Como TV show, where they picked up their guitars and sang their new song “Problems” to me, disrupting the rehearsal. Perry was annoyed until he turned around and saw the 6 year old boy on crutches and waved for everyone to stop working until the song was over. This began a lifelong association that included becoming one of their wonderful mother’s best friends after showing up unannounced at her house in Nashville about 35 years ago. She called me her third son, and for reasons most families can understand, got along with me better than with them. She is 101 and still lives in the house her sons built for their parents with the first royalty checks from “Bye Bye Love”. The Everlys had more enduring respect inside the music business than with the public, after their first 5-year string of hits. They were accorded immense appreciation for their innovation, and their master class in rock harmony that so many acts emulated as best they could. Keith Richards, in his excellent book, referenced Don Everly’s rhythm guitar playing 8 or 9 times.
One story. When Billy Joel met Paul McCartney for the first time, he went on at some length about how Paul was his inspiration, his foundation, the reason he did what he did. And He said “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m gushing, I sound like a drooling fan”. And Paul said “That’s OK, I did the same thing when I met the Everly Brothers.”
Bob, thanks for eulogizing Don and recognizing the Everlys’ influence, particularly on The Beatles, whom the British press dubbed “The British Everly Brothers”, and Simon & Garfunkel, whose first iteration — Tom & Jerry — was virtually an Everly Brothers soundalike. Jack Skuller and I perform as The Everly Set in theaters around the country, and our core demographic is older seniors, thousands of whom flock to our concerts to hear The Everly hits done well and to sing along like the teenyboppers they were in 1957 when Bye Bye Love and Wake Up Little Susie topped the charts. I used to think everybody over 75 idolized Sinatra and the other crooners or only listened to symphonic music or opera, so hearing 1000 people in their 70s and 80s sing/scream the lyrics “Gee Whiz!” and “Ooh La La!” was a crazy eye-opener for me. Rock has now been around so long that our oldest citizens were twisting, shimmying rockers from the getgo! Phil & Don are sadly gone, but long live their music and enduring influence.
Sean Altman (NYC)
For sure they had great songs.I heard them for the first time in New Zealand 1960,I was 12 years old.I bought their 45.
Nice tribute Bob. I’m 69 years old. But I was an Everly Brothers fan when I was still a kid. I remember seeing them sing “Crying in the Rain” on the Ed Sulllivan show, on my family’s black and white TV, while they were still in the military, performing in their uniforms. Like you, I saw them with Simon & Garfunkel (twice: once at Staples and also at the Arrowhead Pond). I had also seen them a few years earlier at the Greek, when Albert Lee was playing lead guitar in their touring band. But nothing comes close to when I saw them many years before that, at the Troubadour, sometime around 1970, when they were first getting back together again. Just the two of them onstage with their acoustic guitars, no band, playing dynamically and singing in perfect, brotherly harmony. Like nothing else I had ever seen live up to that point and still one of the most stand-out musical experiences of my life. I was riveted and couldn’t leave. Stayed for the second show and saw the whole thing over again….back when you could do that at the Troub if the late show wasn’t sold out. What a memory!
Phil Everly on singing with his brother Don:
“It’s like playing tennis with someone who is really great.
You can’t let your mind wander for even a microsecond, or you’ll be left behind.”
“Don and I are infamous for our split.
But we’re closer than most brothers.
Harmony singing requires that you enlarge yourself, not use any kind of suppression.
Harmony is the ultimate love.”
And a quote from Don that I’ve repeated many times:
“If they ever had an Olympics for singing, we might not win the Gold…but we’d sure as hell be in the medals.”
I’m no celebrity rock star but being older than you growing up in NY listening to Murray the K as well as Cousin Brucie, the Everly Brothers record that sealed the deal for me was “Wake Up Little Susie”. Some years later Simon and Garfunkle released “ Dancin‘ Wild” and “Hey School Girl” under the moniker of Tom and Jerry. Those of us who loved vocal harmonies loved it all.
This performance on The Midnight Special is one of my faves. If you haven’t heard “Stories We Could Tell” (the last studio record they made before breaking up in the early 70s) it’s really worth your time. A veritable who’s who of late 60’s/70s California folk-rock supporting them. It closes with the title track, and this video features a really great performance of that song – as well as a late career rendition of “All I Have To Do Is Dream”. The Everly Brothers were fucking great. Their best stuff ranks among the best ever made.
Stories We Could Tell:
Songs Our Daddy Taught Us (my fave EB record)
Yes. The Everlys were untouchable in my opinion. Those harmonies could melt you. My sister gave me Don and Phil’s first album when I was 11 or so. I still have it. Later on, I freaked out when I broke the 78 of “Claudette” . It was a tragedy.
However I’d like to note another passing over the weekend, Tom T. Hall. The Storyteller. Listen to “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine”. He was a poet but called a country singer. Check him out if you don’t know him. He had a pop crossover called “I Love”, which I never favored. Interesting but a very simple song. He wrote “Harper Valley PTA”, which got right to the point. Delve into the catalogue and you find Americana at its rawest. And a sweet man as well.
Those brothers, the songs and their melodies influenced so many from the Beatles to The Rolling Stones. Remember what Keith Richards said: “I don’t think you will ever find another pair that can match them” and “I can never think of the Everly Brothers without thinking of the others who were involved. There were really four of them: the Everly Brothers and Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, who wrote all of those beautifully written songs so well suited to the boys voices”.
Boudleaux and Felice Bryant wrote so many songs recorded by many different musicians become huge hits. The Everly’s All I Have To Do Is Dream, Wake Up Little Susie, Bye Bye Love, Take A Message To Mary to name a few of the Bryant songs they recorded… Roy Orbison’s Love Hurts, Buddy Holly’s Raining In My Heart and countless others. What Keith said rings true!!!
All the best,
I had the pleasure of promoting their record on Mercury Records… The song, “On The Wings of a Nightingale”… written my Sir Paul and produced by Dave Edmunds… how could you go wrong?
Well in “layman’s” terms it was a stiff! A brilliant record that that radio just didn’t get… their popularity had vanished. I went on a radio tour with Phil .. (no Don) and he was wonderful.. except his smoking was nauseating…
At their gig at the Greek Theater the backstage was like the “who’s who” of Hollywood… Linda Ronstadt in arms with Gov. Jerry Brown.. quite a site… oh they had separate dressing rooms and were never seen together for pictures..
The part that I wonder most about is how brothers can go to the grave not making up?
As much appreciation as I do have for The Everly Brothers, I think it’s important to give credit where credit is due. Too often, songwriters who have created iconic songs that live through the decades are not given their deserved respect. To that end, I want to ask that you mention to your readers that, in addition to “All I Have To Do Is Dream” having been written by Boudleaux Bryant… “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Bird Dog” and “Take A Message To Mary” were all written by Felice & Boudleaux Bryant, as were many other Everly Brothers songs. Oh, and, as a matter of fact, Boudleaux Bryant” wrote “Love Hurts!”
As iconic as The Everly Brothers sound was and is, I dare say much of their success can be attributed to the masterful songwriting team of Felice & Boudleaux Bryant. As you may have heard said, it all starts with a song. And without the song, there is nothing.
All the best,
Hello Bob, I am Del Bryant former president CEO of BMI and one of the sons of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant. My dear friend Cory Robbins sent me the article you most recently wrote on Don Everly‘s passing and primarily the importance of the Everly Brothers musical legacy. I found your generational view of the difference in the music and the ubiquity with which it was shared and consequently ingested by the culture most interesting. The time was right for something big and important and it happened in the 50s and early 60s, in black and white, at the time, as you stated, that everyone knew the hits and the people who made them. The Everly’s had an immediacy and an intimacy to their music that few matched. The seeds of their explosion fell upon the most promising artist to follow them and as you eloquently stated the fruits (SONGS) of that time are still fresh and enjoyed universally.
My folks were blessed to have a large share of those blessings not only as recorded by the Everly‘s but a wide array of others for which my brother and I are very proud. I manage the publishing of our copyrights and truly view them as siblings I was raised alongside of. I am a 1948 baby, and a man with approximately 4000 brothers and sisters. Raised backstage Grand Ol Opry, I saw rock ‘n’ roll grow from the inside out. I further worked on better understanding the puzzle after leaving my families publishing company and working with writers from all genres at BMI for 42 years. All along the way I was blessed to have the access and contact and often friendship with so many of the people you mentioned in your article, from Little Richard to Chuck Barry to Holland Dozier and Holland to Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Keith Richards, Graham Nash, Donovan,Tim Rice and many more.
Some created the initial magic we are speaking of while others inspired by the magic created the new beguiling music of yesterday, today and tomorrow. And I would venture to say all of these Band of Merry Brothers would agree that tomorrow is always the target even though it starts today, (STANDARDS). Music, primarily songs have been the “LOVE OF MY LIFE” to borrow from one of my favorite songs the folks wrote for the Everly‘s. ??
Del, Carolyn, Thaddeus Bryant