Don was born in Brownie, Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, in 1937, and Phil two years later in Chicago, Illinois. Their parents were Isaac Milford "Ike" Everly, Jr. (1908–1975), a guitar-player, and Margaret Embry Everly. Actor James Best(born Jules Guy), also from Muhlenberg County, was the son of Ike's sister. Margaret was 15 when she married Ike, who was 26. Ike worked in coal mines from 14 but his father encouraged him to pursue his love of music. Ike and Margaret began singing together. The Everly brothers spent most of their childhood in Shenandoah, Iowa. They attended Longfellow Elementary School in Waterloo, Iowa, for a year, but then moved to Shenandoah in 1944, where they remained through early high school.
While in Knoxville, the brothers caught the attention of family friend Chet Atkins, manager of RCA Victor's studio in Nashville. The brothers became a duo and moved to Nashville. Despite affiliation with RCA, Atkins arranged for the Everly Brothers to record for Columbia Records in early 1956. Their "Keep A' Lovin' Me," which Don wrote, flopped and they were dropped.
The brothers toured with Buddy Holly in 1957 and 1958. According to Holly's biographer PhilipNORMAN, they changed Holly and the Crickets from Levi's and T-shirts to the Everlys' Ivy League suits. Don said Holly wrote "Wishing" for them. Phil said: "We were all from the South. We'd started in country music." While some sources say Phil Everly was one of Holly's pallbearers in February 1959, Phil said in 1986 that he attended the funeral and sat with Holly's family but was not a pallbearer. Don did not attend, saying "I couldn't go to the funeral. I couldn't go anywhere. I just took to my bed."
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After three years on Cadence, the Everlys signed with Warner Bros. Records in 1960, for 10 years. Their first hit for Warner Brothers, 1960's "Cathy's Clown" (written by Don and Phil), sold eight million, the duo's biggest-selling. "Cathy's Clown" was number WB1, the first in the United Kingdom by Warner Bros. Records.
We're not Grand Ole Opry ... we're obviously not Perry Como ... we're just pop music. But, you could call us an American skiffle group!
Other successful Warner Brothers singles followed in the United States, such as "So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)" (1960, Pop No. 7), "Walk Right Back" (1961, Pop No. 7), "Crying In The Rain" (1962, Pop No. 6), and "That's Old Fashioned" (1962, Pop No. 9, their last Top 10 hit). From 1960 to 1962, Cadence Records released Everly Brothers singles from the vaults, including "When Will I Be Loved" (written by Phil, Pop No. 8) and "Like Strangers".
In the UK, they had Top 10 hits until 1965, including "Lucille/So Sad" (1960, No. 4), "Walk Right Back/Ebony Eyes (1961, No. 1), "Temptation" (1961, No. 1), "Cryin' In The Rain" (1962, No. 6) and "The Price of Love" (1965, No. 2). They had 18 singles into the UK Top 40 with Warner Brothers in the 1960s. By 1962, the brothers had earned $35 million from record sales.
In 1961, the brothers fell out with Wesley Rose during the recording of "Temptation". Rose was reportedly upset that the Everlys were recording a song which he didn't publish (and for which he wouldn't receive publishing royalties), and made strenuous efforts to block the single's release. The Everlys held firm to their position, and as a result, in the early 1960s the Everlys were shut off from Acuff-Rose songwriters. These included Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who had written most of their hits, as well as Don and Phil Everly themselves, who were still contracted to Acuff-Rose as songwriters and had written several of their own hits. Regardless, from 1961 through early 1964, the Everlys recorded songs by other writers to avoid paying royalties to Acuff-Rose. They did use the pseudonym "Jimmy Howard" as writer and/or arranger on two tracks—unsuccessfully, however, as Acuff-Rose assumed the copyrights once the ruse was discovered.
Around this same time, they set up their own record label, Calliope Records, for solo projects. Using the pseudonym "Adrian Kimberly," Don recorded a big-band instrumental version of "Pomp and Circumstance" arranged by Neal Hefti, and charted in the United States top 40 in mid-1961. Further instrumental singles credited to Kimberly followed but none charted. Phil formed the Keestone Family Singers, which featured Glen Campbell and Carole King. Their lone single, "Melodrama," failed to chart, and by the end of 1962, Calliope Records was no more.
They never stopped working as a duo but their last United States Top Ten hit was 1962's "That's Old Fashioned", a song recorded but unreleased by the Chordettes and given to the brothers by their old mentor, Archie Bleyer. Succeeding years saw the Everly Brothers sell fewer records in the United States. Their enlistment in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in October 1961 (rather than being drafted into the Army for two years of active service) took them out of the spotlight. One of their few performances during Marine service was on The Ed Sullivan Show, in mid-February 1962, performing "Jezebel" and "Crying In The Rain" in their uniforms.
Following active duty, they resumed their career but United States success was limited. Of their 27 singles on Warner Brothers from 1963 through 1970, only three made the Hot 100 and none peaked higher than No. 31. Album sales were also down. The Everlys' first two albums for Warner (in 1960 and 1961) peaked at No. 9 U.S., but after that, of a dozen more LPs for Warner Brothers, only one made the top 200 (1965's Beat & Soul, which peaked at No. 141). Their dispute with Acuff-Rose lasted until 1964, whereupon the brothers again began writing as well as working with the Bryants again.
By then the brothers were addicted to speed. Don's condition was worse, taking Ritalin which led to deeper trouble. Don's addiction lasted three years until he was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown and to cure his addiction. (It should be noted that the mainstream media of that time did not report that either brother was addicted. When Don collapsed in England in mid-October 1962, reporters were told he had food poisoning; when the tabloids suggested he had taken an overdose of pills, his wife and brother insisted he had suffering "physical and nervous exhaustion". It was years later that the story came out.) Don's health ended their British tour; he returned to the United States, leaving Phil to carry on with Joey Page, their bass player, taking his place.
Performing on the 1970 Johnny Cash summer replacement show
Though their U.S. stardom had begun to wane two years before the British Invasion in 1964, their appeal remained in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. The Everlys remained successful in the UK and Canada throughout most of the 1960s, reaching the top 40 in the United Kingdom through 1968, and the top 10 in Canada as late as 1967. The 1966 album Two Yanks in England was recorded in England with the Hollies, who also wrote many of the album's songs. 1967 brought the Everlys' final Top US 40 hit, ("Bowling Green").
By the end of the 1960s, the brothers returned to country-rock and their 1968 album Roots is touted by some critics as "one of the finest early country-rock albums." However, by the end of the 1960s, the Everly Brothers were no longer hitmakers in either North America or the United Kingdom, and in 1970, following an unsuccessful live album (The Everly Brothers Show), their contract with Warner Brothers lapsed after ten years. In 1970, they were the summer replacement hosts for Johnny Cash's television show: their variety program, "Johnny Cash Presents the Everly Brothers," was on ABC-TV and featured Linda Ronstadt and Stevie Wonder.
In 1970, Don's first solo album was not a success. The brothers resumed performing in 1971, and with RCA Victor Records they issued two albums in 1972 and 1973. Lindsey Buckingham joined them in 1972 and toured with them. They said their final performance would be on July 14, 1973, at Knott's Berry Farm in California, but tensions between the two surfaced and Don told a reporter he was tired of being an Everly Brother. During the show, Don was drunk and unable to play well, leading Phil to smash his guitar and walk off while Don finished the show, ending their collaboration. Reportedly, they did not speak to each other for almost a decade, except at their father's funeral in 1975.
Phil and Don pursued solo careers during a decade. Don found some success on the US. country charts in the mid to late 1970s, in Nashville with his band Dead Cowboys, and playing with Albert Lee. Don also performed solo in London in mid-1976 at an annual country music festival. His appearance was well-received and he was given "thunderous applause," even though critics noted that performance was uneven.
Phil recorded more frequently but with no chart success until the 1980s. Phil wrote "Don't Say You Don't Love Me No More" for the Clint Eastwood comedy film, Every Which Way But Loose (1978) in which he performed it as a duet with co-star Sondra Locke. He also wrote "One Too Many Women In Your Life" for the sequel, Any Which Way You Can (1980) playing in the band behind Sondra's.
The brothers' reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London on September 23, 1983, was initiated by Phil and Don alongside Terry Slater. English pianist Pete Wingfield was musical director. This concert spawned a live LP and video broadcast on cable television in mid-January 1984. The brothers returned to the studio as a duo for the first time in over a decade, resulting in the album EB '84, produced by Dave Edmunds. Lead single "On the Wings of a Nightingale," written by Paul McCartney, was aQUALIFIED success (Top 10 adult contemporary) and returned them to the United States Hot 100 (for their last appearance) and UK chart.
The Everly Brothers performing live in New York
Their final charting was "Born Yesterday" in 1986 from the album of the same name. They collaborated with other performers, usually singing eitherBACKUP vocals or duets.In 1990, Phil recorded a duet with Dutch singer René Shuman. "On Top of the World" was written by Phil and appeared in the music video they recorded in Los Angeles. The track appeared on Shuman's album Set the Clock on Rock. In 1994, a 1981 live BBC recording of "All I Have to Do Is Dream," featuring Cliff Richard and Phil sharing vocals, was a UK Top-20 hit.
Phil provided backing vocals on "You Got Gold" from John Prine's 1991 album The Missing Years. Both the Everlys and Prine had family connections to Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, and Prine was a frequent performer at "The Everly Brother's Homecoming" concerts in Central City, Kentucky, over the years.
In 1998, the brothers recorded "Cold" for the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman's Whistle Down the Wind, and the recording was used in stage versions as a "song on the radio." This would be the final original recording ever made by the Everly Brothers as a band.
In 1999, Don and Edan Everly performed "The Everly Brothers for Kentucky Flood Relief".
The brothers joined Simon & Garfunkel in their "Old Friends" reunion tour of 2003 and 2004. As a tribute to the Everly Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel opened their own show and had the Everlys come out in the middle. The live album, Old Friends: Live on Stage, contains Simon & Garfunkel discussing the Everlys' influence on their career and features all four in on "Bye Bye Love" (the subsequent DVD features two extra solo performances by the Everlys). For Paul Simon, it was not the first time he had performed with his heroes, as in 1986, the Everlys sang background vocals on the title track of Simon's albumGraceland.
In 2004, a compilationTITLEDCountry Classics was released, consisting of tracks recorded in 1972 and 1985.
On January 3, 2014, Phil Everly died at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, 16 days before his 75th birthday. He died of lung disease. Don Everly claimed in a 2014 interview with Los Angeles Times that he had given up smoking in the late 1960s, and that Phil had stopped too, but started again during their break-up and had continued until 2001. Don said that weak lungs ran in the family as their father Ike, had died of black lung disease. He admitted that he had lived "a very difficult life" with his brother and that he and Phil had become estranged once again in later years, something which was mainly attributed to "theirVASTLY different views on politics and life" with the music being the one thing they shared closely, saying "it's almost like we could read each other's minds when we sang." However, Don also stated that he had not gotten "over" Phil's death, which he elaborated by saying: "I always thought about him every day, even when we were not speaking to each other. It still just shocks me that he's gone." Don added that he always firmly believed he would die before Phil due to Don being older.
On October 25, 2014, Don Everly attended the 2014 Annual Music Masters as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame paid homage to the Everly Brothers. Don took the State Theater stage and performed his and his brother's classic hit "Bye Bye Love".
Don and Phil, both guitarists, used vocal harmony mostly based on diatonic thirds. With this, each line can stand on its own as a melody line. This is in contrast to classic harmony lines which, while working well alongside the melody, are not as melodic by themselves.
On most recordings, Don sings the baritone part and Phil the tenor harmony . A few exceptions are "Made To Love" (A Date with the Everly Brothers), "T For Texas" (Roots), as well as "Always Drive A Cadillac" (Born Yesterday). These songs feature Phil on lead, with Don providing the harmony. Don [usually sang most of the] solo lines (for example, the verses of "Bye Bye Love"); among the few exceptions is the 1965 single "It's All Over", where Phil sings the song's solo lines.
In the late 1950s, the Everly Brothers were the rock 'n' roll youth movement's addition to close harmony vocal groups of which many were family bands. They influenced rock groups of the 1960s. The Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Simon & Garfunkel developed their early styles by performing Everly covers. The Bee Gees, the Hollies, and other rock 'n' roll groups that feature harmony singing were also influenced.
The music of the Everly Brothers influenced the Beatles, who referred to themselves as "the English Everly Brothers" when Paul and John went hitch-hiking southTO WIN a talent competition, and based the vocal arrangement of "Please Please Me" on "Cathy's Clown". Keith Richards called Don Everly "one of the finest rhythm players". Paul Simon, who worked with the pair on "Graceland", said, 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."
The Everly Brothers had 35 Billboard Top-100 singles, 26 in the top 40. They hold the record for the most Top-100 singles by any duo, and trail Hall & Oatesfor the most Top-40 singles by a duo. In the UK, they had 30 chart singles, 29 in the top 40, 13 top 10, and 4 at No. 1 between 1957 and 1984. They had 12 top-40 albums between 1960 and 2009.
In 1986, the Everly Brothers were among the first 10 artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were introduced by Neil Young, who observed that every musical group he belonged to had tried and failed to copy the Everly Brothers' harmonies. That year, on July 5, the Everlys returned to Shenandoah to a crowd of 8,500 for a concert, parade, street dedication, class reunion, and other activities. Concert fees were donated to the Everly Family Scholarship Fund which gives scholarships to middle and high school students in Shenandoah.
They wrote "Till I Kissed You" (Don), "Cathy's Clown" (Don and Phil), and "When Will I Be Loved" (Phil). "Cathy's Clown" and "When Will I Be Loved" became hits for Reba McEntire and Linda Ronstadt, respectively (for the latter, the Everly Brothers sang the chorus). Also, "Cathy's Clown" was covered by the legendary Tarney/Spencer Band. It was released as a single in 1979. Band member Alan Tarney (former member of the Shadows) went on to be a producer for "hit machines" like Cliff Richard and a-ha, the Norwegian band who in turn covered "Crying In The Rain" in 1990 for its fourth album, East of The Sun, West of The Moon.
On Labor Day Weekend 1988, Central City Kentucky began the Everly Brothers Homecoming event to raiseMONEY for a scholarship fund for Muhlenberg County students. Don and Phil toured the United Kingdom in 2005, and Phil appeared in 2007 on recordings with Vince Gill and Bill Medley. Also in 2007,Alison Krauss and former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant released Raising Sand, which included a cover of the 1964 hit "Gone, Gone, Gone", produced by T-Bone Burnett.