and Boudleaux Bryant
In the spring of 1945, 19-year-old
Matilda Genevieve Scaduto was working as an elevator operator at the
Schroeder Hotel in Milwaukee. One afternoon, she struck up a conversation
with one of the guests, a musician from Georgia with the poetic name of
Diadorius Boudleaux Bryant. Five days later, Matilda and Boudleaux ran off
together and one of the great songwriting partnerships was born.
Over the next 30 years, the couple would write nearly 6,000 songs together,
selling over 200 million records with artists such as Roy Orbison, Tony
Bennett, Dean Martin, Buddy Holly, Eddy Arnold, Bobbie Gentry, Gram Parsons,
Simon & Garfunkel and most memorably, the Everly Brothers. The Bryants’ list
of classics includes “Bye Bye Love,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” “Wake Up
Little Susie,” “Love Hurts” and “Rocky Top.”
“We started writing for the hell of it, for fun,” Boudleaux said. “And after
about 80 songs we thought, this looks like it could be a good thing. But we
originally wrote them for our own amusement, and we’d show them to our
After months of writing letters to everyone he knew—and didn’t know—in the
music business, Boudleaux placed a song called “Country Boy” with Grand Ole
Opry singer Little Jimmy Dickens. The song went to No. 7 on the charts in
1949, and by the next year, the Bryants had upped stakes to Nashville.
They were signed by Acuff-Rose Publishing and scored with a few more hits,
including “Hey Joe” by Carl Smith and “I’ve Been Thinking” by Eddy Arnold.
In the mid-’50s, with rock ’n’ roll on the rise, the Bryants hit their
creative stride when they hooked up with two young harmonizing brothers from
Kentucky, Phil and Don Everly. Whether it was a doe-eyed ballad
(“Devoted to You”), a novelty song (“Bird Dog”) or a rockabilly tune
(“Problems”), the Bryants and the Everlys were a match made in hillbilly
The Bryants’ biggest song of all was one that had been turned down by
everyone in the business -‘Bye Bye Love’.
The pair’s chart run continued from the ’60s through the ’80s with hits by
Charley Pride, Glen Campbell, Joe Stampley and Moe Bandy. By the time
Boudleaux passed away in 1987, they’d had over 1,500 recordings of their
songs. Felice continued to collaborate with various writers, and at the time
of her death in 2003, was working on a one-woman play. The pair were
inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall
The Finer Details
Ike Everly had a show on KMA and KFNF in Shenandoah in the
mid-1940s, first with his wife and then with their sons. The
sang on the radio as "Little Donnie and Baby Boy Phil". The family
sang as the Everly Family. Ike, with guitarists Merle
Travis, Mose Rager, and Kennedy Jones, was honored in 1992 by the
construction of the Four Legends Fountain in Drakesboro,
The family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1953, where the
brothers attended West High School (Knoxville, Tennessee). In 1955,
the family moved to Madison, Tennessee, while the brothers moved to
Nashville, Tennessee. Don had graduated from high school in
1955, and Phil attended Peabody Demonstration School in Nashville,
from which he graduated in 1957.Both could now focus
While in Knoxville, the brothers caught the attention of family
friend Chet Atkins, manager of the RCA Victor studios in
Nashville. The brothers became a duo and moved to Nashville. Despite
affiliation with RCA Victor, Atkins somehow arranged
for the Everly Brothers to record for Columbia Records in early
1956. Their "Keep a-Lovin' Me", which Don wrote and composed,flopped, and they were dropped from the Columbia label.
Atkins introduced the Everly Brothers to Wesley Rose, of Acuff-Rose
music publishers. Rose told them he would secure them a
recording deal if they signed to Acuff-Rose as songwriters. They
signed in late 1956, and in 1957 Rose introduced them to
Archie Bleyer, who was looking for artists for his Cadence Records.
The Everlys signed and made a recording in February 1957.
"Bye Bye Love" had been rejected by 30 other acts. Their record
reached No. 2 on the pop charts, behind Elvis Presley's
"(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear", and No. 1 on the country and No. 5 on
the R&B charts. The song, by Felice and Boudleaux
Bryant, became the Everly Brothers' first million-seller.
Working with the Bryants, they had hits in the United States and the
United Kingdom, the biggest being "Wake Up Little Susie",
"All I Have to Do Is Dream", "Bird Dog", and "Problems". The Everlys,
though they were largely interpretive artists, also
succeeded as songwriters, especially with Don's "(Till) I Kissed
You", which hit No. 4 on the US pop charts.
The brothers toured with Buddy Holly in 1957 and 1958. According to
Holly's biographer Philip Norman, they were responsible
for persuading Holly and the Crickets to change their outfits from
Levi's and T-shirts to the Everlys' Ivy League suits. Don
said Holly wrote and composed "Wishing" for them. "We were all from
the South", Phil observed of their commonalities. "We'd
started in country music." Although 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."
After three years on Cadence, the Everlys signed with Warner Bros.
Records in 1960,where they recorded for 10 years. Their
first Warner Bros. hit, 1960's "Cathy's Clown", which they wrote and
composed themselves, sold eight million copies and became
the duo's biggest-selling record. "Cathy's Clown" was number WB1,
the first selection Warner Bros. Records ever
released in the United Kingdom.
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
In 1961, the brothers had a falling out with Wesley Rose during the
recording of "Temptation". Rose was reportedly upset that
the Everlys were recording a song which he had not published and,
hence, for which he would not be paid any publishing royalties,
and he made strenuous efforts to block the record's release. The
Everlys held firm to their position, and as a result, in the
early 1960s, they were shut off from Acuff-Rose songwriters. These
included Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who had written and
composed 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. Nevertheless, from 1961
through early 1964, the Everlys recorded songs by other
composers to avoid paying any royalties to Acuff-Rose. They used the
pseudonym "Jimmy Howard" as writer or arranger on two
selections they wrote and recorded during this time. This ruse,
however, was ultimately unsuccessful, as Acuff-Rose gained
legal possession of the copyrights once the deception was
Around this time, the brothers also set up their own record label,
Calliope Records, for solo projects. Using the pseudonym
"Adrian Kimberly", Don recorded a big-band instrumental version of
Edward Elgar's first "Pomp and Circumstance" march, which
Neal Hefti arranged and which charted in the United States top 40 in
mid-1961. Further instrumental singles credited to
Kimberly followed, but none of those 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 had gone out of business.
The Everly Brothers' last US top 10 hit was 1962's "That's Old
Fashioned (That's The Way Love Should Be)", 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 enlistments in the United States
Marine Corps Reserve in October 1961 took them out of the
spotlight. One of their few performances during their Marine
service was on The Ed Sullivan Show, on February 18, 1962, when they
performed "Jezebel" and "Crying in the Rain" while
outfitted in their Marine Corps uniforms.
Following their discharges from active duty, the Everlys resumed
their career, but with little success in the United States.Of their 27 singles on Warner Bros. 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
Warners (in 1960 and 1961) peaked at No. 9 US, but after that,
of a dozen more LPs for Warner Bros., only one made the top 200:
1965's "Beat & Soul", which peaked at No. 141.
The brothers' dispute with Acuff-Rose lasted until 1964, when they
resumed writing and composing as well as working with the
Bryant spouses. By then, however, both of the Everlys were addicted
to amphetamines. Don's condition was worse: he was taking
Ritalin, which led to deeper trouble. Don's addiction lasted three
years, until he was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown
and to treat his addiction. The mainstream media 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 his brother insisted he was
suffering physical and nervous exhaustion. Don's poor health
ended their British tour; he returned to the United States, leaving
Phil to carry on with Joey Page, their bass player, taking
Though their US stardom had begun to wane two years before the
British Invasion in 1964, their appeal was still strong in
Canada, the UK and Australia. The Everlys remained successful in the
UK and Canada for 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 and composed many of the
album's songs. The Everlys' final US top 40 hit,
"Bowling Green", was released in 1967.
By the end of the 1960s, the brothers had returned to country rock,
and their 1968 album, Roots, was hailed by some critics as
"one of the finest early country-rock albums". However, by the end
of the 1960s, the Everly Brothers had ceased to be
hitmakers in either North America or the UK, and in 1970, following
an unsuccessful live album (The Everly Brothers Show),
their contract with Warner Bros. lapsed after ten years. They were
the summer replacement hosts for Johnny Cash's television
show in 1970; their variety program, Johnny Cash Presents the Everly
Brothers, was on ABC-TV and featured Linda Ronstadt and
In 1970, Don released his unsuccessful first solo album. The
brothers resumed performing in 1971 and issued two albums for RCA
Records in 1972 and 1973. Lindsey Buckingham joined and toured with
them in 1972. The Everlys announced their final performance
would take place on July 14, 1973, at Knott's Berry Farm, in Buena
Park California but tensions between the two surfaced, and
Don told a reporter he was tired of being an Everly Brother. During
the show, Phil smashed his guitar and walked off while
Don finished the show, ending their collaboration. The two would not
rejoin forces musically for more than ten years.
Solo years (1973–1983)
Phil and Don pursued solo careers from 1973 to 1983. 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 at an annual country music
festival in London in mid-1976. His appearance was well received,
and he was given "thunderous applause", even though critics
noted that the performance was uneven.
Phil sang backup for Roy Wood's 1975 album Mustard and two songs for
Warren Zevon's 1976 self-titled album. While Zevon
was part of Phil Everly's back-up band, Phil also suggested the
title and subject matter for Zevon's breakthrough hit single
"Werewolves Of London".
Don recorded "Everytime You Leave" with Emmylou Harris on her 1979
album Blue Kentucky Girl.
Phil recorded more frequently, but with no chart success until the
1980s. Everly wrote "Don't Say You Don't Love Me No More"
for the 1978 Clint Eastwood comedy film Every Which Way But Loose,
in which Eastwood performed it as a duet with co-star
Sondra Locke. Phil also wrote "One Too Many Women In Your Life" for
the 1980 sequel, Any Which Way You Can, and played in the
band which backed Locke.
In 1983, Phil had UK success as a soloist with the album Phil Everly,
recorded mainly in London. Musicians on the LP included
Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler, Rockpile drummer Terry
Williams, and keyboard player Pete Wingfield. The track
"She Means Nothing to Me", written and composed by John David
Williams and featuring Cliff Richard as co-lead vocalist, was
a UK Top 10 hit, and "Louise", written and composed by Ian Gomm,
reached the Top 50 in 1983.
Reunion, subsequent activities (1983–2006)
The brothers' reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London on
September 23, 1983, which ended their ten-year-long solo
careers, was initiated by Phil and Don alongside Terry Slater, with
Wingfield as musical director. This concert was recorded
for 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, recording the album EB '84,
produced by Dave Edmunds. The lead single, "On the Wings of
a Nightingale", written and composed by Paul McCartney, was a
success (Top 10 adult contemporary) and returned them to the
US Hot 100 (for their last appearance) and the UK charts.
The Everly Brothers performing in New York
Their final charting single was 1986's "Born Yesterday", from the
album of the same name. They collaborated with other
performers, mostly singing either backup vocals or duets, including
additional vocals on the title track of Paul Simon's 1986
album "Graceland". In 1990, Phil recorded a duet with Dutch singer
René Shuman. "On Top of the World" was written and
composed by Phil, who appeared in the music video they recorded in
Los Angeles. The selection appeared on Shuman's album Set
the Clock on Rock. A 1981 live BBC recording of "All I Have to Do Is
Dream", which featured Cliff Richard and Phil sharing
vocals, was a UK Top 20 hit in 1994.
Phil provided backing vocals on "You Got Gold" from John Prine's
1991 album The Missing Years. Prine and the Everlys had
family connections to Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, and Prine was a
frequent performer at the Everly Brothers' Homecoming
concerts in Central City, Kentucky, over the years.
In 1998, the brothers recorded "Cold" for Andrew Lloyd Webber's and
Jim Steinman's musical Whistle Down the Wind, and the
recording was used in stage versions as source music. This would be
the final original recording the Everly Brothers would
ever make as a duo.
In 1999, Don and his son 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 on "Bye Bye Love"; the
subsequent DVD features two extra solo performances by the Everlys.
This was not the first time Paul Simon had performed with
his heroes; in 1986, the Everlys had sung background vocals on the
title track of Simon's album Graceland. Simon & Garfunkel's
The Concert In Central Park featured their interpretation of the
Everlys' "Wake Up, Little Susie".
A compilation album consisting of tracks recorded between 1972 and
1985, Country Classics, was released in 2004.
Phil Everly sang "Sweet Little Corrina" with country singer Vince
Gill on his 2006 album These Days. Everly had previously
supplied harmony vocals on J. D. Souther's "White Rhythm and Blues"
on his (Souther's) 1979 album You're Only Lonely.
Phil Everly's death
Phil Everly died at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in
Burbank, California, on January 3, 2014, 16 days before his
75th birthday, of lung disease. Phil's widow Patti blamed her
husband's death on his smoking habit, which caused
him to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and recounted
Phil's spending his final years having to carry oxygen
tanks with him wherever he went and taking 20 different types of
medications per day.Phil's last public appearance was in 2011,
at Buddy Holly's induction to Hollywood Boulevard's Star Walk of
Fame, and he was then struggling to catch his breath as he
addressed the crowd. Patti established the Phil Everly Memorial COPD
Foundation in 2014.
Don Everly claimed in a 2014 interview with The Los Angeles Times
that he had given up smoking in the late 1960s and that
Phil had stopped too but started again during their breakup 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 that was mainly attributed to "their
vastly 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 he had not gotten over Phil's death, 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 his
brother, because he was older than Phil. In a 2016
interview Don said he was still coping with the loss of Phil and
that he had kept some of his brother's ashes in his home.
He added that he would pick up the ashes every morning and say "good
morning", while admitting that it was a peculiar ritual.
Don Everly attended the Annual Music Masters as the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame paid homage to the Everly Brothers on October
25, 2014. Don took the State Theater stage and performed the Everlys'
classic hit "Bye Bye Love".
Don Everly publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton for the 2016
presidential election in January of that year, citing her foreign
policy experience from her tenure as Secretary of State as well as
her support of education. It marked the first time Don
Everly had ever publicly supported a political candidate. Don stated
that after his brother Phil's death, he felt free to
express his political views more openly, noting that they held
opposing political views which made it impossible for them
to ever lend any active support to political candidates.
On June 20, 2018, Don Everly joined Paul Simon on stage during
Simon’s Nashville performance on his farewell tour; they
performed “Bye Bye Love.” This is the most recent known performance
by Don Everly.
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed The Everly
Brothers among hundreds of artists whose material was
reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
Style and influences
Don and Phil, both guitarists, used vocal harmony mostly based on
diatonic thirds. On most recordings, Don sang the
baritone part and Phil the tenor harmony. One notable exception is
"Since You Broke My Heart" (1958). Although
Don was mainly low, and Phil was mainly high, their voices overlap
in a very intricate and almost subtle fashion. Another
notable example is "I'll See Your Light" (1977). It is one of the
few songs in which Phil consistently has the low harmony
while Don is consistently high. 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", on which Phil
sang the song's solo lines.
In the late 1950s, the Everly Brothers were the rock and roll youth
movement's addition to close harmony vocal groups, many
of which 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
songs. The Bee Gees, The Hollies, The Marmalade, and other
rock and roll groups that feature harmony singing were also
influenced by the Everlys.
The music of the Everly Brothers influenced the Beatles, who
referred to themselves as "the British Everly Brothers"
when Paul McCartney and John Lennon went hitchhiking south to win a
talent competition. They 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 on 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."
Achievements and honors
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 only Hall & Oates for 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.
The Everly Brothers were among the first 10 artists inducted into
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. They were introduced
by Neil Young, who observed that every musical group he had ever
belonged to had tried, and failed, to copy the Everly
Brothers' harmonies. On July 5, 1986, the Everlys returned to
Shenandoah, Iowa, 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 school and high school students in Shenandoah. The
brothers were inducted into the Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Hall of
Fame in 2003.
In 1997, the brothers were awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement
Award. They were inducted into the Country Music Hall of
Fame in 2001 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004. Their
contribution to music has been recognized by the Rockabilly
Hall of Fame. On October 2, 1986, The Everly Brothers received a
star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their work in the
music industry, located at 7000 Hollywood Blvd. In 2004, Rolling
Stone magazine ranked the Everly Brothers No. 33 on
its list of the "100 greatest artists of all time". They are also
No. 43 on the list of UK Best selling singles artists
of all time.