Saturday, January 4, 2014

Remembering Phil Everly

I first saw the Everly Brothers with their long hair and ducktails when they were young teenagers in the early-1950s on Cas Walker’s morning “Farm and Home Hour” television show on WROL out of Knoxville, Tennessee, which always began with the theme song:
Pickup your morning paper when it hits the street
Cas Walker’s prices just can’t be beat
Buy that Blue Band Coffee and you’ll wants some more
Do your grocery shopping at the Cas Walker Store
The Everly Family had just moved to Knoxville from Shenandoah, Iowa. In the 1940s their father, Ike Everly (a pioneer of the "thumb picking" style of guitar playing) had a radio show back in Shenandoah with his wife Margaret and his two sons, Don and Phil.

During the 1930s, 40s and 50s Knoxville was one of country music’s proving grounds for country singers. By the time the Everly Family arrived in the city, Cas Walker's "Farm and Home Hour" show on WROL radio and the "Mid-day Merry-Go-Round" on WNOX radio had already launched the careers of Roy Acuff, the Carter Sisters, Chet Atkins, Homer and Jethro and Kitty Wells, sending them all on to the Ryman Auditorium and WSM’s Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

Though the “Ole Coon Hunter” (Cas Walker) failed to recognize the Everly Brothers’ potential, telling them – “I can't have that jumpin'-up-and-down music on my show—it won't sell no groceries” – Chet Atkins did. Though being forced to leave WROL at the time was a tremendous setback for the entire family, eventually it proved to be a blessing. Their luck began to change when a royalty check arrived in the mail from Chet Atkins for a couple thousand dollars (a lot of money back in 1955).

A year earlier the brothers had gone to Nashville to sing and pitch some songs to Chet Atkins who they had met at the Tennessee Valley State Fair in Knoxville. Atkins was encouraging, telling them that he would publish the songs if he could get someone to record them. Atkins was successful. Kitty Wells, the number one female country star at the time, recorded a song that Don had written – "Thou Shalt Not Steal." The song made the Country Top Ten that year.

Though Atkins was affiliated with RCA Records, he helped the Everly Brothers to secure a record deal with Columbia Records in 1956. Unfortunately, their first and only single for Columbia, "Keep A' Lovin' Me," was a failure, and they were soon dropped from the label.

Atkins then introduced the Brothers to Wesley Rose of Acuff-Rose music publishers. Rose was so impressed with the Brothers’ songwriting ability, he told them that if they signed with Acuff-Rose as songwriters, he would get them a record deal. In 1957 Rose introduced them to Archie Bleyer of Cadence Records.

The Everly Brothers recorded their first single for Cadence Records in February 1957. The record, "Bye Bye Love," reached No. 2 on the pop charts behind Elvis Presley's "Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear", making it to No. 1 on the Country and No. 5 on the R&B charts. The song, written by the husband and wife team – Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, sold over a million records, becoming the Everly Brothers' first gold recording.

They continued to record on the Cadence label for three years and then signed with Warner Brothers Records in 1960, for a reported 10-year, multi-million dollar record deal. Don and Phil wrote their first hit with Warner Brothers in 1960, “Cathy’s Clown”. It sold eight million copies, making it their biggest-selling record.

The rest is history. Their guitar picking and close harmony singing influence numerous other rock groups of the 1960s, including the Beatles, the Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkel. The Everly Brothers’ unique harmony singing also influenced the Hollies, the Bee Gees, as well as other rock’n’roll groups.

Phil Everly died yesterday at the age of 74. He had suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, caused by a lifetime of smoking. At the time of his death Phil owned the Everly Music Company, a musical instrument accessories company, producing products designed for guitar and bass.

1 comment:

mythopolis said...

An interesting summary of their early history...'Dream' and 'Wake up Little Suzy' were two of my favorites!!