Only last week had it suddenly occurred to me how much time had gone by without stopping to think about Phil and Don. Becoming absorbed in so many different artists over so much time is the M.O. of the over-musically involved, and sometimes creates a vacuity in which even the greatest gods in our euphonic canons can become more than temporarily dismissed. Shameful!
Suddenly, I found myself reminiscing about these two being the first musicians I ever heard and instantly fell in love with. How are they doing? How old are they now? And what, if anything, are they doing these days? Wonder what they think of this release?’ Thinking, ‘I Need to look them up one day soon’.
Their vast musical legacy darted thru my head, all because of an NPR album review of Norah Jones and Billy Joe Armstrong‘s new Tribute to the Everly Brothers called, “Foreverly Brothers“.
It also reminded me that the very first record I fell in love with also had the first song I ever learned to sing and play to. It was 1967 when my parents played “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” from The Everly Brothers Sing Great Country Hits on our Solid State Hi-Fi combo receiver/record player, and the photo on the back of the album showed 2 thin and cooly dressed dudes with thick wavy hair, form-fitting trousers and pointy boots recording in the studio. Suddenly I wanted to be 20. They looked so cool, and I couldn’t wait to grow up and look just like them.
The other record was Charlie Rich‘s “Behind Closed Doors”, but that’s an entirely different story.
Silver Threads and Golden Needles-1960:
Phil Everly died on January 3rd after a 60 year career, interestingly enough, on my mother’s birthday. For it was she who played me that record with the song I was SO enthralled with, it inspired me all those years ago. He was 74.
So many artists from their time and many many more after, right up to this very instant owe much to Phil and Don, whether they meant to or not. That kind of original sound, married with good looks, well-crafted songwriting and great guitar playing rounded out all that any musician, duo or more could ask for. They had “Everly-thing”(Good God, did I just coin that?).
Their vocal blend was unique to the time and was revolutionary, save for their possible influence from early western artists, or actors who forged that “High and Lonesome” sound in old B&W westerns. And isn’t that the very idea? Take what you’ve seen others do and make it into your own. I think they got that covered from the outset.
Simon and Garfunkel took major notes and cues from them. Paul Simon hits the nail on the head in calling them “The greatest and most accomplished song-duo I’ve ever heard. Both voices pristine and soulful. What they witnessed helped forge the early history of rock and roll.” I would kindly add that it seems they did this mostly thru a country portal. Dvinity at its finest.
The Beatles borrowed from them heavily, both in sound and in wardrobe. Seeing John and Paul singing into the same microphone, with their guitars cinched tightly up to their chests, with the crisp form-fitting suits and needle-nose boots. George Harrison’s country influence further married the Beatles sound firmly to the E-Bros. Well, that and a little Chet Atkins, Yet the Fab Four may very likely owe more to the them than, say, Chuck Berry or the blues guys they borrowed and admired from often. It is said they once referred to themselves as “the English Everly Brothers”. This is evident in songs like “Please Please Me” when compared to, say, EBros “Cathy’s Clown“.
The Beatles Please Please Me:
Maaca had given another nod to them in his 1976 hit, “Let em In“, when he sings, “Martin Luther, Aunty Gin, Brother Michael, Phil and Don….open the door and, let em in!” Hall & Oates borrowed heavily from the EBros vocal stylings, then married it with their own pop and R&B sensibilities and singular song-writing skills. Importantly, Daryl and John are the only songwriting duo to ever out-sell the EB’s.
From George Jones and Tammy Wynnett’s two part harmonies, to the Statler Brothers four part and the The Righteous Brothers respectively. The Beach Boys and many more have all have used the Everly Brothers’ signature rule of Diatonic Thirds, where the same melody is singularly sung by two or more singers. One is simply contrasting an octave higher.
Elvis came around close enough to the same time. So close maybe that the three of them may have been more like ships passing in the night than had time to cull sound or moves at the outset. But one can’t help but think there were some kind of gleanings from on in both camps. There are some similarities in vocals, hair, dress and those high clinging guitars. Elvis stood alone…but his contrasting baritone harmony came from JD Sumner, who was fitfully hidden at the side, accompanying beautifully to Elvis’ Phil tinged tenor harmonies. and from this writer’s perspective the similarities tip heavier in the brothers favor- if ever so slightly.
Bye Bye Love and Interview Merv Griffin-1966:
Linda Ronstadt and Reba McEntire released the Everly Bros penned super-hit “When Will I Be Loved”, and even had the brothers sing on the chorus. The Hollies, Crosby Stills and Nash…and Young, and so on and so on, all parlayed the insatiable magnetic pull of the Everly Brothers’ sound. Glenn Campbell and his Daughter Debby‘s rendition of Let It Be Me was a gripping duet in the EB’s tradition. I always thought of Glenn as the missing third Everly brother. Certainly equal in talent for just one guy.
More recently, Keith Richards and Norah Jones sang a beautiful( yes, I said beautiful) Everly Brothers cover of “Love Hurts” during a Graham Parsons tribute in 2004. Graham had popularized the song in his own style. As original and off-the-cuff as these two artists are, even Keef and Norah couldnt keep from dripping Phil and Don. They did a superb rendition as a wink and a nod to the style that even Graham himself loved to portray…the Everly Brothers.
Keith Richard and Norah Jones- Love Hurts:
Its quite remarkable that a total of three Everly Brother tribute records were released in 2013. The Chapin Sisters album, A Date With the Everly Brothers. Also Bonnie Prince Billy and Dawn McCarthy’s What the Brothers Sang.
It is of no surprise then, that Norah would come full circle and pay fitting tribute to the Everly Brothers from that performance, and/or other similar performances. Undoubtedly, someone has mentioned to her how much she calls the EBros to mind, as she instantly did me.
Its uniquely comforting knowing that Phil himself most likely was aware of these Tributes. They usually come much after an artists passing, which is far too late. Who knows, maybe thats all Phil was waiting for.
Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones – “Foreverly”
As is traditional with southern belief and affectation, it seems safe to assume that Phil was met at the pearly gates by Elvis, Buddy Holly, Ricky Nelson, Hank Williams, George Jones, John and George…George Jones; God assuredly said, “Brother Michael, Aunty Gin, Phil and Don. Open the door and…let em in.”
Rolling Stone has the Everly Brothers listed at 33 on their list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
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.
In 1986, the Everlys were among the first 10 artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. During the ceremony, they were introduced by Neil Young, who said “Every musical group I’ve belonged to tried and failed to copy the Everly Brothers’ harmonies.”
In 1997 the brothers were awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.