DON EVERLY,
1937-2021

Don Everly, whose duo recordings with his brother Phil would influence countless artists from The Beatles to Simon & Garfunkel to Norah Jones, died Saturday in Nashville. He was 84.

The guitar-playing duo learned early, singing country music on their parents’ radio show in Shenandoah, Iowa, with Don most often singing melody.

In the early 1950s, after the family moved to Nashville, the boys were mentored by family friend Chet Atkins, who got them a deal with Columbia Records. They were dropped in 1955, however, after one single.

Two years later, Wesley Rose of Acuff-Rose helped them secure a deal with New York's Cadence Records, where their harmonies soared over rock beats and tearful ballads.

In 1957 “Bye Bye Love” went to #1 on the Cashbox pop chart and #2 on its Billboard counterpart. They followed it later that year with “Wake Up Little Susie,” which topped both publications' pop charts.

The two songs were written by husband and wife Boudeleaux and Felice Bryant, who would supply a string of hits for the brothers that included “All I Have to Do Is Dream” (#1 in 1958); “Bird Dog” (#2 in 1958); “Take a Message to Mary” (#16 in 1959); “Devoted to You” (#10 in 1958); and “Love Hurts,” which the Everlys introduced and which was a hit for Roy Orbison and Nazareth and famously recorded by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.

In 1960 they moved to Warner Bros. and were cut off from the Bryants, but they continued to score hits, including their self-penned “Cathy’s Clown,” which would ascend to #1 and become their biggest hit. Their final Top 10 was "That's Old Fashioned (That's the Way Love Should Be)" in 1962, by which time they'd opened their own Calliope Records for solo projects, which they would promptly shutter.

The brothers enlisted in the Marines in 1961 and disappeared from the spotlight. When they returned to full-time recording, the British Invasion was in its early stages, and homegrown pop hits were more likely to come out of Detroit than Nashville.

In 1968, the Everlys turned to early country music for Roots, which would later be considered one of the first country-rock albums. A decade earlier, they'd done a similar album, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. Both records are considered early influences on the alt-country and Americana movements.

Don and Phil continued to record and tour until famously breaking up onstage at Knott’s Berry Farm in July 1973. They reunited in 1983 at London’s Royal Albert Hall, which led to their signing with Mercury Records. They hit the Top 40 with EB ’84, following it with the less successful Born Yesterday in 1986 and Some Hearts two years later. Among their occasional reunions in succeeding years was one as the opening act for Simon & Garfunkel on their 2003 tour.

Phil Everly died in 2014.

The Everlys were part of the inaugural class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. The Musicians Hall of Fame honored Don in 2019 with its first Iconic Riff Award, for his rhythm guitar intro to "Wake Up Little Susie."

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