Don Everly, who passed away just a few weeks ago, was half of one of the greatest brother acts of all time.
The Everly Brothers were famous for their beautiful harmonies and their ability to seemingly read each other’s mind on stage. They were also famous for their spectacular falling out.
From young ages Don and Phil sang with their parents on local radio shows. Before younger brother Phil was done with high school, the family moved the boys to Nashville to start them on their road to success.
Guitar great and producer Chet Atkins, a family friend, got the brothers signed with Acuff-Rose Music Publishing as songwriters. At Acuff-Rose, the brothers met a husband and wife song writing team, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. The young couple had not had any successes but they showed the brothers a song that they thought had potential. The Bryants had already shown this song to dozens of other Nashville artists and had been turned down cold.
Don and Phil decided to record the song that Felice and Boudleaux liked so much. The song would become the first Everly Brothers million seller. How did all those other acts miss the potential of “Bye Bye Love”?
The Everlys would have many successes with the Bryants. Don and Phil would also pen hits including their biggest hit,“Cathy’s Clown” in 1960. But by 1961, things would change the trajectory of the brothers’ career.
They chose to record a song that was not published by Acuff-Rose Publishing. This would leave Acuff-Rose out of the money if the record became a hit. Acuff-Rose tried to stop the release of the record. Things escalated and Acuff-Rose blocked the brothers from recording all Acuff-Rose published songs. Not only would the Everlys be unable to record songs by the Bryants, being under contract themselves, they would be unable to record any songs that they wrote.
The brothers enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves to avoid being drafted. They would be unable to tour to back up any of their hit singles. However, they performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in early 1962 in their dress blue uniforms.
The brothers would fulfill their military obligation and repair their feud with Acuff-Rose but by then Beatlemania and the British Invasion had eclipsed their stardom. Their relationship with each other had become constant bickering and both brothers were having issues with drugs. By 1973, Don and Phil had set a date to call it quits.
The final show was at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif. Don, in order to steady his emotions, had been drinking before the show. He forgot lyrics and bungled several songs. Phil was seething. He smashed his guitar against the stage and stormed off. The crowd was stunned. The brothers would not speak to each other for 10 years.
The Everlys would eventually reconcile. They would play and record with a new generation of musicians that held them in high regard. Phil Everly would pass away in January 2014. It is unclear if the brothers were on speaking terms when he died.