The Record
3:20 pm
Sat January 4, 2014

Phil Everly: Harmony To His Brother's Melody

Originally published on Sat January 4, 2014 5:59 pm

The Everly Brothers' close harmonies and smooth guitar licks influenced an entire generation of popular musicians. Don Everly's voice usually handled the melody, but Phil Everly gave the higher accompanying harmony to that melody, and that was what defined The Everly Brothers' sound.

Phil Everly died Friday from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 74.

The brothers' father, Ike, was a Kentucky coal miner and musician. Ike Everly played country music on the radio and ended up with his own show. Phil Everly was born in Chicago in 1939. Father Ike would have his sons, Little Donny and Baby Boy Phil, sing with their parents live on the air in the mornings, before they went to school.

By 1955, the brothers were in Nashville, getting work as songwriters. In 1957, they got their first hit as The Everly Brothers with "Bye Bye Love."

Graham Nash told WHYY's Fresh Air recently that hearing "Bye Bye Love" at a school dance — when he was only about 15 — had a big impact on his career.

"Ever since that day," said the Crosby, Stills & Nash co-founder, "I decided that whatever music I was gonna make in the future, I wanted it to affect people in the same way that Everly Brothers music affected me that Saturday night."

The Everly Brothers' sound — a blend of roots music, gospel and country — produced hit after hit in the Top 10 and inspired artists including The Beatles, Linda Ronstadt and Simon & Garfunkel.

Over time, though, the brothers fought. At a 1973 concert, Phil smashed his guitar and walked off stage. Right there, Don announced that the duo had broken up.

"You know, they're brothers," says Jason Everly, Phil Everly's son. "If you had a brother you worked with for 50 years, you'd be pissed off over a few things, for better or worse."

Jason Everly says whatever the two fought about, they always had each other's backs: "If you said a bad word about my Uncle Don, even if they weren't getting along at that point, he was the first person to defend them."

The duo reunited in 1983 and was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. NPR's Noah Adams spoke with Don Everly soon after the induction.

"When Phil and I hit that one spot where I call it The Everly Brothers, I don't know where it is. 'Cause it's not me and it's not him. It's the two of us together," Don said. "I sing the lead, and so I can drift off. Then we'll come back in together and the whole thing happens again. It amazes me sometimes."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Finally tonight, a farewell. The Everly Brothers' close harmonies and smooth guitar licks influenced an entire generation of popular musicians. Friday night, Phil Everly, one-half of the iconic duo, passed away of lung disease. He was 74 years old. NPR's Sam Sanders has this remembrance.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Don's voice usually handled the melody. But Phil Everly gave the higher accompanying harmony to that melody, and that was what defined the Everly Brothers' sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAKE UP LITTLE SUSIE")

EVERLY BROTHERS: (Singing) Wake up, little Susie, wake up.

SANDERS: That sound came from a lifetime and a family full of music. Phil's father, Ike, was a Kentucky coal miner and musician. Ike Everly played country music on the radio and ended up with his own show. Phil Everly was born in Chicago in 1939. Father Ike would have his sons, Little Donny and Baby Boy Phil, sing with their parents live on the air in the mornings before they went to school. By 1955, the brothers were in Nashville getting work as songwriters. In 1957, they got their first hit as the Everly Brothers with a song called "Bye Bye Love."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BYE BYE LOVE")

BROTHERS: (Singing) Bye bye love, bye bye happiness, hello loneliness, I think I'm gonna cry.

GRAHAM NASH: I was about 15 years old attending a Catholic school girl's dance on a Saturday evening. We got halfway across the floor and "Bye Bye Love" by the Everly Brothers came on.

SANDERS: That's Graham Nash, a member of the group Crosby, Stills and Nash. In a recent interview with NPR's Terry Gross, Nash said the duo's work was a big influence.

NASH: Ever since that day, I decided that whatever music I was going to make in the future, I wanted it to affect people the same way that the Everly Brothers' music affected me on that Saturday night.

SANDERS: The Everly Brothers didn't just influence Nash. Their sound, a blend of roots music, gospel and country, produced hit after hit in the top 10 and inspired artists like The Beatles, Linda Ronstadt and Simon & Garfunkel. Over time, though, the brothers fought. At a 1973 concert, Phil Everly smashed his guitar and walked off stage. Right there, Don Everly announced that the duo had broken up.

JASON EVERLY: They're brothers. If you had a brother that you were working with for 50 years, you're pissed off over a few things, for better or worse.

SANDERS: Jason Everly is Phil Everly's son. He says whatever the two fought about, they always had each other's backs.

EVERLY: If you said a bad word about my Uncle Don, even though they weren't getting along at that point, he was the first person to defend him.

SANDERS: The duo reunited in 1983 and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. NPR's Noah Adams spoke with Don Everly soon after their induction about what it was like to sing with his brother Phil.

DON EVERLY: When Phil and I hit that one spot where I call the Everly Brothers, I don't know where it is because it's not me and it's not him. It's the two of us together. I sing the lead, and so I can drift off, then we'll come back in together, and the whole thing will happen again. And it's so - it amazes me sometimes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN WILL I BE LOVED")

BROTHERS: (Singing) When will I be loved...

SANDERS: Sam Sanders, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN WILL I BE LOVED")

BROTHERS: (Singing) I've been turned down. I've been pushed around...

RATH: And for Saturday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Arun Rath. Join us again tomorrow. Until then, have a great night.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN WILL I BE LOVED")

BROTHERS: (Singing) When I meet a new girl... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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