Isaac Donald Everly was born in 1937 in Brownie, Kentucky and his kid brother, Phillip, followed two years later after the family moved to Chicago. The Everlys enjoyed Kansas style singing and finger picking guitar style which the boys naturally picked up. Their father and uncles played professionally in Chicago’s honky-tonks and bars but Don and Phil’s parents wanted the boys raised in a small rural community. In 1944 they moved to Iowa, when the boy’s father got a job with radio station KASL in Waterloo. Aged 8 and 6 respectively, Don and Phil performed on their parents' show. Billed as "Little Donnie" and "Baby Boy Phil," mum and dad joined them to make up a four part harmony which was very popular at the time.
By 1950 the show was known as "The Everly Family Show," three years later the family were on the move again to Nashville. The boys were soon picked up as a talented duo and by the time they signed to Cadence Records they were consummate professionals. In 1957 they were paired with song writers Boudleaux and Felice Bryant and recorded “Bye bye love.”
With Archie Bleyer (Producer) and Chet Atkins as one of recording session men the lads could not go wrong. The song enjoyed a 22 week run on the Billboard pop charts, peaking at #2 where it sat for 4 weeks. The record became The Everlys' first million sellers and sent the brothers spiraling, towards stardom.
“Wake Up Little Susie" was released in a picture sleeve, and it became their second million sellers. It stayed at #1 in 1957 four weeks. Don and Phil hit the road for a 78-city tour called "The Biggest Show of Stars for '57," it was a package tour which included some of the all-time greats of rock 'n' roll: Chuck Berry, Buddy Knox, The Drifters, Paul Anka, Fats Domino, The Crickets (including Buddy Holly), Eddie Cochran, LaVern Baker (the only female on the tour), Frankie Lymon, Clyde McPhatter, and Paul Williams Orchestra.
The third single was "All I Have To Do Is Dream," another Boudleaux and Felice Bryant composition, and it was released in 1958. Another number 1, this time it lodged at the top for 5 weeks. In 1960, the Everlys left Cadence for a lucrative contract with Warner Bros. Label. Production was brasher than previously and the hits kept coming with "Cathy's Clown," "Walk Right Back“ and ”Temptation".
More and more the Everly’s pop songs were full of maudlin sentiments. Ebony Eyes may have given an insight in how Don and Phil were feeling. Prior to this their music had lyrics celebrating young love set to heart-rending yearning and compelling melodies.
Their close vocals reminiscent of Appalachian country music gave them a distinctive advantage over early rockabilly and The Everlys could rock when they wanted. In 1961 the brothers were drafted into the Marines and served for a year. Once demobbed the Everlys carried on recording but their personal lives came under a lot of stress. "That's Old Fashioned" (1962) was their last Top Ten hit and by this time Don was addicted to amphetamines.
No longer major box office in the States the Everlys remained popular elsewhere and in 1965, "Price of Love" went to number two in the U.K.
Despite their absence of hit’s the Everlys could always command huge audiences on international tours, and hosted a network TV variety show in 1970. The brothers broke up in 1973 and spend the next decade performing solo. In 1983 the two resumed performing and appeared at the Royal Albert Hall (London). Phil Everly died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at a Burbank hospital on January 3, 2014.
Worth a listen:
Bye Bye Love (1957)
Wake Up Little Susie (1957)
All I Have To Do Is Dream (1958)
('Til) I Kissed You (1959)
Cathy's Clown (1960)
Walk right back (1961)
Crying in the rain (1962)
Price of Love (1965)
Love is strange (1965)