E is for the Everly Brothers

I wonder if Take A Message To Mary by the Everly Brothers influenced the Bee Gees’ I’ve Got To Get A Message To You?

The Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Bee Gees, Bob Dylan, the Byrds, and Simon & Garfunkel all listed them as influences. In fact, Paul Simon described his solo hit Graceland as an Everly Brothers song. The bonus tracks on Rockpile’s Seconds of Pleasure album features Nick Lowe & Dave Edmunds singing songs by the duo.

Isaac Donald “Don” Everly (born February 1, 1937) and Phillip “Phil” Everly (born January 19, 1939) were known for “steel-string guitar playing and close harmony singing.” They were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the first class, in 1986.

I remember seeing my father’s single of Bird Dog/Devoted to You on Cadence Records in the house. The brothers got some great songs from the husband and wife Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, as well as tunes they penned themselves. Unfortunately in the early 1960s, the Everlys were shut off from Acuff-Rose songwriters. “These included Felice and Boudleaux Bryant… as well as Don and Phil Everly themselves, who were still contracted to Acuff-Rose as songwriters.” But they remained popular in England and the European continent well after their US popularity waned.

For a time, they had a major falling out but eventually got back together to play the oldies circuit. Still, their impact on popular music was already settled.

Sadly, Phil Everly died on January 3, 2014, of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 74.

My favorite Everly Brothers songs (written by the Bryants unless otherwise noted), links to all songs:

12. Cryin’ in the Rain [live version], #6 in 1962, written by Howard Greenfield and Carole King

11. Take A Message To Mary, #16 in 1959 – I wonder if this influenced the Bee Gees’ I’ve Got To Get A Message To You?

10. Devoted To You, #10 in 1958, as a B-side

9. (‘Til) I Kissed You, #4 in 1959, written by Don Everly – the Crickets of Buddy Holly fame were the backing band

8. Poor Jenny – #22 in 1959 as a B-side

7. On the Wings of a Nightingale – #50 in 1984, written by Paul McCartney, produced by Dave Edmunds

6. Bird Dog – #1 in 1958. Whatever its linguistically sexist flaws, I maintain my affection for it

5. When Will I Be Loved – #8 in 1960, written by Phil Everly. Linda Ronstadt had the bigger hit, but I always had a greater affection for the original.

4. Bye Bye Love – #2 for four weeks in 1957, this was their first hit. Covered more than once by Simon & Garfunkel.

3. All I Have To Do Is Dream – #1 for five weeks in 1958. “Only trouble is – gee, whiz…”

2. Cathy’s Clown – #1 for five weeks in 1960, written by the Everly Brothers. I like how it changes feel from verse to chorus.

1. Wake Up Little Susie – #1 for four weeks in 1957. It’s a wonderful story-song about how other people are going to say, “Ooo-la-la” for a couple being out so late.

(My favorite three songs are their biggest hits – how terribly parochial.)

Oh, here’s probably my LEAST favorite Everly Brothers song:

Ebony Eyes, #8 in 1961, by John D. Loudermilk. It’s the dopey, ham-handed spoken part that I really despise.

As the article in the Telegraph, the saddest thing about Phil’s death is that it will never blend with Don’s again.


ABC Wednesday – Round 14

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

24 thoughts on “E is for the Everly Brothers”

  1. I still remember the Everly Brothers. I didn’t know that Phil Everly died from COPD. Thanks for the informative post.
    Wil, ABCW Team.

  2. I remember these guys from the 50s, Roger. Bye Bye Love, Bird Dog, and Til I Kissed You were my three favorites, and I never realized Buddy Holly’s Crickets were the back-up band on the latter, but maybe that’s why I liked it so much.
    I’m sure I remember every day of the four weeks in 1957 when Wake Up Little Susie was #1. It was on the radio constantly, until I was thoroughly tired of it. And I agree completely about Ebony Eyes. Blech. Never a fan of John D. Loudermilk anyway.

  3. Whenever I hear the words “Everly Brothers,” I automatically start singing, “Wake Up Little Suzie!” It was a real jolt when Phil passed away! Where have the years gone?

    abcw team

  4. A harmony like honey. You might find the documentary ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’ interesting. Filmed in 1984 with them about their influences, early life and family in coal mining Kentucky and of course lots of songs. They rebroadcast here on Phil’s death.

  5. I only know Wake Up Little Suzie.
    Thank for sharing all these family groups/duos/bands. It’s been a blast for me to get to know them, as most are unknown in Brazil.

  6. Even I remember the Everly Brothers with great fondness – guess they were good background to ‘bringing up children’ years.

  7. as soon as I recognized the Everly Brothers thumbnail, the song “Wake Up, Little Susie” started spinning in my head. It was Our Song, my high school boyfriend and me. That was a LONG time ago, but I still like the song even though he’s no longer in my life.

  8. Nice list! As you may remember, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us is one of my favorite albums. I’m now spending this cold afternoon listening to your links.

  9. Great post on the Everly brothers. Loved their music – grew up listening to and still know the words.

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