The Everly Brothers -
A Family that Sings Together
by Erika Cox
The Everly Brothers consisted of two brothers, Don born February 1, 1937, and Phil born January 19, 1939.
The sons of two Kentucky country musicians, the Everly Brothers grew up performing with their parents on the radio and on live shows.
Their first single was “Keep A Lovin’ Me” in 1956 had moderate success but their big hit “Bye Bye Love” in 1956 went to number #2 on the pop charts number #2 on the country charts and was a million dollar hit.
The Everly Brothers’ musical style was Country and Western with a slight edge of Rock and Roll. They both played the acoustic guitar very well playing a firm but soft, non-aggressive style. The vocals were the main focus of the group the harmonies floated above the music and were profoundly emphasized throughout their songs.
The sound was light and close harmonizing with each brother singing a tone that could stand on its own as a single melody. Their sound was very low-key and matched their clean-cut looks. To some the sound is similar to the Doo Wop style of the early sixties and perhaps they were the predecessors of the Doo Wop sound.
Their sound is what made them stand out among the heavy Rock and Roll artists of the 50’s and for three years with Cadence Records the Everly Brothers had at least a Top Ten hit every four months and many of these hits were number one hits on the country charts.
In 1960, they signed with Warner Brothers and produced “Cathy’s Clown” their last big hit.
Like most of the 50’s Rock and Roll stars, the 60’s were not as nice to the Everly Brothers and due to personal struggles the Everly Brothers struggled throughout the 60’s. They did manage to release an album in 1968 that had average success.
The Brothers didn’t scream or shout, dance or shake, their unique style was comprised of the close harmonies and innocence they portrayed.
Their songs were clean cut none of the songs had to be remade for radio ears most were about an ideal relationship but never focused on sex or revenge, in other words the songs were simple.
Unlike other Rock and Roll artists of the 50’s the Everly Brothers appealed to many parents of teenagers. Their clean cut, soft, non-threatening style definitely was a sigh of relief for parents who were taken aback or shocked by what others like Elvis, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis displayed.
To most parents and others who deplored Rock and Roll music, the Everly Brothers provided Rock and Roll with some much needed decency.
After years of playing and touring together Phil had enough. In July 1973 while playing a concert in California, Phil stormed off stage before the concert was over saying, “The Everly Brothers died ten years ago”.
The brothers would only speak to each other once in the next decade and that was at their father’s funeral. One could imagine the pressures involved with constantly touring and even perhaps living up to a squeaky clean image that the Brothers had to deal with. However, the brothers did reunite on stage while performing in London in 1983.
Watching this show, it was a very touching reunion and very appropriate for them to make up where they started and doing what they knew and loved best, and that was on stage singing and performing.
Like so many of the pioneers of Rock and Roll in the 50’s, the Everly Brothers influenced many artists that followed them. The close harmony singing can be heard in the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Byrds just to name a few.
In 1986, the Everly Brothers were among one of the first groups to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during its formation and were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
They were also recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, a tribute to their pioneering efforts in the development of a cross mixture of many music genres. Despite all they have been through, the personal struggles and the public breakup, they still perform around the world as a duo today.