Phil Everly, who has died aged 74, was one half of the Everly Brothers. Phil and his older brother Don had a string of hits in the 1950s and early 1960s, and the influence of their close-harmonies on rock’n’roll is difficult to overstate.
Speaking to NME recently, Paul McCartney described the transformative effect that hearing the Everly Brothers had on The Beatles. “We were guys with guitars who wanted to play solos, and then the Everly Brothers came along! We loved the harmonies. Me and John thought we were Don and Phil.”
When Neil Young inducted the Everly Brothers into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 he admitted that every group he’d ever been in had tried and failed to copy the brothers’ harmonies. Jake Bugg is another well-known fan and last year Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones released ‘Foreverly’, a tribute album inspired by the Everly Brothers.
Phil Everly was born in Chicago on January 19 1939 to Ike and Margaret Everly, who themselves had been a country singing duo. He was born just a couple of weeks before his brother Don’s second birthday, so the parents raised them almost as if they were twins – wearing matching outfits and sharing birthday celebrations.
The two brothers sang together from early childhood and made their first record ‘Keep a-Lovin’ Me’ as teenagers in 1956, although at this stage they had little success.
The following year they moved to a new record label, Cadence, and recorded Felice and Boudleaux Bryant’s ‘Bye Bye Love’. The song was a hit and the brothers set out on a tour with Johnny Cash.
In the next two years the pair had a string of hits, including ‘Wake Up Little Susie’, ‘This Little Girl Of Mine’ and ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’, which established them as one of America’s top pop acts alongside Elvis Presley, Pat Boone and Buddy Holly. In 1959, ‘Cathy’s Clown’, written by Don, topped the UK charts for seven weeks, selling more than eight million copies around the world.
Through the Sixties, as musical tastes changed and the bands they had influenced began to take over, their releases gave back diminishing returns. Don became addicted to amphetamines and at one point Phil had to finish a UK tour alone. In 1973, at a concert in California, Phil smashed his guitar and strode off stage, leaving Don to announce their break-up.
Although estranged for a while, the brothers performed together again many times before Phil’s death. They first reunited at the Royal Albert Hall in 1983, and in 2003-4 they joined Simon & Garfunkel for their ‘Old Friends’ reunion tour.
Phil Everly passed away on January 3 2014. He was 74.