Foreverly Yours

For just about a half-century now, The Everly Brothers have been making gorgeous music together. First singing together as little kids on their parents' "down-home music" radio show in Shenandoah, Iowa, these brothers were seasoned professionals long before they were teenagers. Don sang the leads while his slightly younger brother Phil filled in with flawless country harmonies. As they grew, their musical tastes grew with them.

The new sounds emerging in the 1950s weren't lost on these two. As the initial rock era dawned, the "Everly Family" act gave way to just the duo. They held on to their musical origins and integrated them into their own distinctive flavor of rock 'n' roll.

It was their characteristic close harmony sound and country echoes that set the Everly Brothers apart in those glorious days of early rock 'n' roll. Their string of hits began in 1957 with "Bye Bye Love" and extended right into the '80s with "On the Wings of a Nightingale." In between they recorded dozens of classics including (but not limited to) "Wake Up Little Susie," "Devoted to You," "Let It Be Me," "All I Have to Do Is Dream," "Cathy's Clown," "Love Hurts" and "Ebony Eyes."

The list of musicians who owe much of their sound to those Everly Brothers records is endless. Fifties hitmakers like the Kalin Twins and Tom and Jerry (before changing their names to Simon and Garfunkel) were outright knockoffs. Sixties bands including the Beatles, the Byrds and the Hollies made great show of attempting Don and Phil's vocal style. The Byrds also integrated their country elements and in turn influenced later bands such as the Flying Burrito Brothers, CS&N, the Eagles and R.E.M.

In today's era of contemporary country acts trying to sound like old Eagles records, it's hard to find a country star with no Everlys debt. That sound developed by two kids back in the '50s continues to resonate in popular music to this day.

Even after the hits dried up, they continued to make some of their finest records. The 1968 LP Roots is generally considered to be their strongest collection. A concept album that includes snippets of their "Everly Family" radio shows alongside new material by the likes of Randy Newman and Merle Haggard, the album managed to glance backward while looking forward.

Yet despite the great music they were still making, they just couldn't shake their image of something from a previous era. The audience wanted them to be a nostalgia act, and they weren't interested in reliving the past. Personal tensions grew at a rate that mirrored their career downturns. The act finally broke up in 1973 after a much-publicized onstage fight at Knott's Berry Farm.

It was another 10 years before Don and Phil reunited both personally and professionally. In 1983, they performed an emotional "reunion" concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. This successful return led to a 1984 album, EB '84, which included "On the Wings of a Nightingale." This hit single was written especially for the Brothers by longtime fan Paul McCartney. Ever since, they have continued to tour a few months out of each year. The show features all the expected favorites and a great batch of less well-known songs, all highlighted by those amazing Everly harmonies.

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David Gofstein