Today is Phil Everly’s birthday!
The influence of the Everly Brothers is incaluable: Lennon and McCartney patterned their early sound after them; Simon and Garfunkle modeled their whole act on them. Check the photo above: clearly every British invasion band (and plenty of American garage bands) stole their “look” from them. They not only sang like angels, but between 1958 and 1962 they had unerring ears for hits, most of them written by the husband and wife team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, a few of them written by Phil and Don themselves (“Til I Kissed You”, “Cathy’s Clown” and “When Will I Be Loved”, the latter of which was a big hit for Linda Ronstandt too in the 70s). During their heyday the duo had 29 top 40 hits.
I think a lot of the appeal of their records comes from the drama they invest in their performances. In that way that’s so appealing to teenagers, everything is so IMPORTANT, the romances are epic. Some of the songs are just joyful, some are bitter, some are heartbreaking, and some are really funny (“Bird Dog”, “Problems”). What might be lesser known, they also had a lot of traditional material in their repertoire, and hence they were also influential on the folk movement. Their second LP “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us”, released at the height of their fame, was essentially a folk record, containing songs like “Barbara Allen” and “Kentucky”. (Their father Ike had also been a popular musician).
Given this deep, obvious connection to so much that happened in the 1960s, you might think they’d have been able to pull off a Cliff Richard, that is straddle the eras, and enjoy some chart success in the age which they were instrumental in spawning. But nope. After 1962 they fell precipitously. While I’ve listened to their early work muchly and in depth, I haven’t yet heard the stuff that didn’t chart, so I have no insight into why they didn’t click. Although this clip of a 1971 concert in Australia may offer clues. The long hair I’ll buy; they’re only a couple of years older than the Beatles. But covering a Rolling Stones song seems like a desperation move. As I’m sure even Mick and Keith would concede, the Everly Brothers are the parents, not the children in that relationship. Also–whew–that back-up band isn’t very good at all!
For more on show biz history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc