In 1957 they were two kids from Tennessee, unaccustomed to being on television. But Don Everly, age 20, and Phil Everly, 18, had a hit: “Bye Bye Love.”
The Everly Brothers were young, and so was rock ‘n’ roll. “Rock ‘n’ roll had a place where it started,” said Phil’s son, Jason Everly. “I mean, it didn’t exist; there was no rock ‘n’ roll. And then, there was rock ‘n’ roll.”
For Jason and his cousin, Stacy Everly (Don’s daughter), the history of rock ‘n’ roll is family history.
Phil died in 2014 and Don in 2021. Now, the next generation has assembled a new album of remastered tracks, titled “Hey Doll Baby.” It is not, however, a greatest hits collection. Stacy said, “We just found record after record after record … you’d hadn’t heard these songs before. So, it was fascinating. The usual suspects, we always heard, like everybody else, right? And then, you know, we see, ‘Oh, wow, they recorded that? How interesting!'”
One in particular that stands out for them is “Gone, Gone, Gone”:
The album was produced by someone who also knows what it’s like to be the child of a rock star: Adria Petty, daughter of Tom Petty. “I’m a rabid Everly Brothers fan,” she said. “I even named my daughter Everly, with my dad’s urging. I am one of those people!”
Tom Petty died in 2017, but he passed on to Adria his respect for the Everly Brothers. “There would be no Crosby, Stills & Nash, there’d be no Beatles,” she said. “John and Paul used to play Don and Phil when they try to figure out their arrangements.
“When someone asked me why I was doing this, I was like, because dad wouldn’t have existed without them,” Adria said.
In 1986 when the brothers got their star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, Tom Petty was there. “So many people are credited with influencing the rock era, but these guys really did, more so than anyone I can think of, just about,” he said then.
Jason said, “When they went into the studio to record, say, ‘Bye Bye, Love,’ it started out country and it came out a rock ‘n’ roll classic. And it blew everybody’s mind.”
The brothers grew up performing on country radio with their parents, Ike and Margaret. Don was just 13 when he sang on a rare 1950 recording from an Iowa station. Just a few years later the brothers headed to Nashville.
The Everlys’ songs of teenage love and teenage angst somehow became more poignant with their brotherly harmony. By 1960 they were so popular that Warner Brothers signed them to a record-breaking contract. “It was the biggest recording contract in music history at the time,” said Jason. “I mean, $1 million, that was crazy talk.”
“Cathy’s Clown” became the Everlys’ biggest-selling record ever:
But by 1964 their sales were dwindling. “Things changed,” said Jason. “The Beatles came along, and music evolved and exploded again in a whole new way.”
The Everly Brothers continued to tour until 1973, when it all ended suddenly, right in the middle of a show, when Phil threw down his guitar.
They reunited ten years later and, as Phil Everly put it, their bond remained. In 1984 Phil said, “Because you’re brothers, you sing a certain way together and you have a certain background that works and meshes together. But it’s because we’re brothers that we’re back together, not because we make music, but because we’re brothers.”
As something of a coda to their career, in 2003 they performed with another reunited duo, Simon and Garfunkel.
Stacy said, “I think it was two people who could actually understand what they had been through, too, ’cause it’s two guys that sang so closely together as well, like brothers, and had their ups and downs as well through the years.”
In their early years, as Don Everly noted in 1984, rock music was considered a passing fad: “Pop music is a fickle mistress, and tastes change, they come and go. But tell you what, rock ‘n’ roll lasted. And that was the thing they were telling us all along: It’s never going to last. It’s never going to last.“
But it’s still here – and the music of the Everly Brothers still rocks, nearly seven decades later.
Listen to “Hey Doll Baby” by the Everly Brothers on YouTube:
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Story produced by Ed Forgotson. Editor: Remington Korper.