100 Greatest Men: #80. The Everly Brothers

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Their fraternal harmonies saturated stations across the radio dial in the fifties and early sixties, and today they’re best remembered as founders of both rock and country music as we know it.

Brothers Don and Phil Everly were born two years apart in the late thirties, and grew up listening to music that transitioned out of the depression and into the second world war. Their father, Ike, was a traveling musician and had his own radio show out of Shenandoah, Iowa.

They started as part of the family act, but as they got older, they became a duo. Through the help of Chet Atkins, they received a record deal at Columbia, which faltered after one failed single. Still, Atkins encouraged them to stay at it, and helped them get a publishing contract in Nashville.

Their publisher, Acuff-Rose, introduced them to the higher-ups at Cadence Records, and when they signed with the label, the hits came quickly. Hits like “Bye Bye Love”, “Wake Up Little Susie”, “Devoted to You”, and “Bird Dog” made a big impact on the radio, reaching the upper ranks of the pop and country charts in America. Their Rockabilly sound reached all the way around the world, as the duo had big hits in the United Kingdom and Australia.

As format walls hardened, the band signed with Warner Bros., where they had their last big pop hits with “Cathy’s Clown” and “When Will I Be Loved.” Interestingly, though the songs didn’t crack the country charts back then, both would later be covered by female country artists who took them all the way to #1. When Reba McEntire sang “Cathy’s Clown” and Linda Ronstadt sang “When Will I Be Loved”, they sounded just as country as anything else at the time, if not a bit more.

Throughout the sixties, their fortunes faded at radio, and a feud broke the duo apart in the seventies. But before they temporarily called it quits, they released the landmark 1968 set Roots, a critically acclaimed set that was one of the earliest examples of the country-rock that Ronstadt and the Eagles would mainstream in the years that followed.

The Everly Brothers were among the first group of acts inducted during the inaugural year of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. Since then, they’ve been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Essential Singles:

  • Bye Bye Love, 1957
  • Wake Up Little Susie, 1957
  • All I Have to Do is Dream, 1958
  • Take a Message to Mary, 1959
  • Cathy’s Clown, 1960
  • When Will I Be Loved, 1960

Essential Albums:

  • The Everly Brothers, 1958
  • Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, 1959
  • It’s Everly Time, 1960
  • A Date With the Everly Brothers, 1961
  • Roots, 1968

Next: #79. Hank Locklin

Previous: #81. Eagles

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

4 Comments on 100 Greatest Men: #80. The Everly Brothers

  1. This group is way too low on the list – while I don’t think they’d be in my top thirty they would be somewhere close to it. Whether performing country or pop material, there were few that could equal the harmonies of the Everly Brothers and few who actually disliked their music

  2. Besides everything else, including their hits, the Everlys will always be important for bringing the close high-harmony vocal sound of traditional country music and bluegrass into a rock and roll context, which is why they’ve been enshrined in both Nashville and Cleveland. Some of their best stuff, in fact, includes songs not heard on the radio much, including their minor 1967 country-rock hit “Bowling Green”, and 1984’s “On The Wings Of A Nightingale” (which I believe was written by one James Paul McCartney).

  3. Great article. When you hear the name Everly you think of their great harmonies. I was 11 when Bye Bye Love became their first hit and I have 8 or 9 of their 45’s on Cadence records. “Golden Hits of the Everly Brothers” is one of the first LP’s I ever bought. I didn’t get to see them in concert til the mid 80’s at Westbury and didn’t know they were in the Country Music Hall of Fame til a few months ago.

    Some other singles I would consider essential:
    “Till I Kissed You”
    “Let It Be Me”
    “So Sad”
    “Walk Right Back”
    “Crying in the Rain”
    “That’s Old Fashioned”
    “Gone Gone Gone” (recently covered by AK/Plant)
    “Bowling Green”

    A few other album track favorites:
    “Mention My Name in Sheboygan”, a song from the 40’s which sounds like a vaudeville tune.
    “Up in Mabel’s Room” – with the line “winner or dud, you feel like a stud, up in Mabel’s room”.
    “Don’t Say Goodnight”

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