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The Everly Brothers Biography

Inductees: Don Everly (vocals, guitar; born February 1, 1937); Phil Everly (vocals, guitar; January 19, 1939 – January 3, 2014)

Phil and Don Everly transformed the Appalachian folk, bluegrass and country sounds of their Kentucky boyhood into a richly harmonized form of rock and roll. The sons of entertainers Margaret and Ike Everly, a traveling country & western team, the Everly Brothers performed as part of the family act on radio and in concert. Then, in 1955, while they were still teenagers, they moved to Nashville. They landed jobs as songwriters with Roy Acuff’s publishing company. Don scored a hit with “Thou Shalt Not Steal,” which he wrote for Kitty Wells. They also recorded a single, “Keep on Loving Me,” for Columbia Records. Then, in 1957, they signed with Cadence Records.

On their own, they sang beguilingly of adolescent romance in crisp, shimmering voices. With Don taking the melody and Phil harmonizing above him, the Everlys released a steady string of hit records between 1957 and 1962 that crossed over from country to pop and even R&B charts.

Many of the duo’s songs were written for them by the husband-and-wife team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. The Bryants wrote, and the Everlys sang, eloquently of teenage devotion and heartbreak, as well as tragicomic situations. The Bryant-penned Everlys hits include such timeless favorites as “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Devoted to You,” “Bird Dog,” “Poor Jenny” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” The brothers themselves became accomplished songwriters, authoring such original hits as “Cathy’s Clown,” “When Will I Be Loved” and “(‘Til) I Kissed You.”

The duo became international stars, and toured the world with a small band. They wore matching suits and had matching haircuts. During their three years on the Cadence label, they averaged a Top 10 hit every four months. Then, in 1960, the Everlys signed a 10-year contract with Warner Bros. They recorded prolifically during the following decade. Even though the hits stopped flowing in the U.S. in 1962, the Everly Brothers continued to make the charts in the U.K., including nine Top 40 hits between 1963 and 1965. Their close-harmony singing directly influenced a rising tide of musicians that included the Beatles, the Hollies, Simon and Garfunkel and the Byrds. The Everlys’ band during the early Seventies included Warren Zevon on keyboards and Waddy Wachtel on guitar.

The duo broke up somewhat acrimoniously in 1973, after Phil smashed his guitar and stormed offstage during a show in Buena Park, California. Ten years later, they reemerged at an emotional reunion concert on the stage of London’s Royal Albert Hall. In 1984, they released a new album, EB 84, which was produced by Dave Edmunds. That same year the Everlys returned to the U.S. charts with "On the Wings of a Nightingale," a song written by Paul McCartney. In 1986, the year they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they released another album, Born Yesterday, which was also produced by Edmunds. The title track was a hit on the country charts. 

The Everlys’ last studio album, Some Hearts, was issued in 1989. Over the course of their career, they scored 35 Top 100 singles, the most by any duo in history. They have also received numerous honors. In 1997, they received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2001, they were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and in 2004, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

Phil Everly passed away on January 3, 2014, following complications attributed to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 74.