Not many acts can claim fame to more than one major field of music. The Everly Brothers are well known as rock and roll innovators. Inductees in 1986 to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, many famous acts attribute part of their success to the influence of The Everlys including The Beach Boys and The Beatles. In 2001, they became members of The County Music Hall of Fame. Singer-songwriter Paul Simon who worked with the pair on his hit Graceland said in an email the day after Phil's death: "Phil and Don were the most beautiful sounding duo I ever heard. Both voices pristine and soulful. The Everlys were there at the crossroads of country and R&B. They witnessed and were part of the birth of rock and roll."
On their own, they sang beguilingly of adolescent romance in crisp, shimmering voices. With Don taking the melody and Phil harmonizing above him, the Everlys released a steady string of hit records between 1957 and 1967 that crossed over from country to pop and even R&B charts. Their repertoire includes: 21 studio albums, 2 live albums, 29 compilation albums (with more on the way), and 75 major singles, eleven of which reached the #1 position on the charts. As late as 1994, Phil did a reprise of former hit, "All I Have to Do is Dream", with Cliff Richard, and it hit #14 on the UK charts.
Phil and Don Everly transformed the Appalachian folk, bluegrass and country sounds of their Kentucky boyhood into a richly harmonized form of rock and roll. The sons of entertainers Margaret and Ike Everly, a traveling country & western team, the Everly Brothers performed as part of the family act on radio and in concert. Then, in 1955, while they were still teenagers, they moved to Nashville. They landed jobs as songwriters with Roy Acuff’s publishing company. Don scored a hit with “Thou Shalt Not Steal,” which he wrote for Kitty Wells. They also recorded a single, “Keep on Loving Me,” for Columbia Records. Then, in 1957, they signed with Cadence Records.
Many of the duo’s songs were written for them by the husband-and-wife team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. The Bryants wrote, and the Everlys sang eloquently of teenage devotion and heartbreak, as well as tragicomic situations. The Bryant-penned Everlys hits include such timeless favorites as “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Devoted to You,” “Bird Dog,” “Poor Jenny” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” The brothers themselves became accomplished songwriters, authoring such original hits as “Cathy’s Clown,” “When Will I Be Loved” and “Till I Kissed You.”
The duo became international stars, and toured the world with a small band. They wore matching suits and had matching haircuts. During their three years on the Cadence label, they averaged a Top 10 hit every four months. Then, in 1960, the Everlys signed a 10-year contract with Warner Bros. They recorded prolifically during the following decade. Even though the hits stopped flowing in the U.S., in 1962, the Everly Brothers continued to make the charts in the U.K., including nine Top 40 hits between 1963 and 1965. Their close-harmony singing directly influenced a rising tide of musicians, in addition to The Beatles, that included: The Hollies, Simon and Garfunkel and the Byrds.
The duo broke up somewhat acrimoniously in 1973, after Phil smashed his guitar and stormed offstage during a show in Buena Park, California. Ten years later, they reemerged at an emotional reunion concert on the stage of London’s Royal Albert Hall. In 1984, they released a new album, EB 84. That same year the Everlys returned to the U.S. charts with "On the Wings of a Nightingale," a song written by Paul McCartney. In 1986, the year they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they released another album, Born Yesterday. The title track was a hit on the country charts.
The Everlys’ last studio album, Some Hearts, was issued in 1989. The brothers continued to do the occasional tour. Over the course of their career, they scored 35 Top 100 singles, the most by any duo in history. They have also received numerous honors. In 1997, they received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2001, they were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and in 2004, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Their pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. They have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7000 Hollywood Blvd. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked the Everly Brothers No. 33 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Times. They are also No. 43 on the list of UK Best selling singles artists of all time.
Phil Everly passed away on January 3, 2014, following complications attributed to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 74.
Robert Santelli, executive director of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, said, “When you talk about harmony singing in the popular music of the postwar period, the first place you start is the Everly Brothers.... You could say they were the vocal link between all the 1950s great doo wop groups and what would come in the 1960s with the Beach Boys and the Beatles. They showed the Beach Boys and the Beatles how to sing harmony and incorporate that into a pop music form that was irresistible.”
In addition to his wife, Phil Everly is survived by his brother, Don, their mother, Margaret, sons Jason and Chris, and two granddaughters.
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