Saturday, August 21, 2021

R.I.P.: Don Everly, Rock'n'Roll Royalty Was 84

Don and Phil Everly

Don Everly, the last surviving member of the Everly Brothers and a pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll, died at his home in Nashville on Saturday. 

He was 84, according to The LA Times.

A spokesperson for the family confirmed Everly’s death with The Times, but did not disclose a cause.

A statement from the family read in part: “Don lived by what he felt in his heart. Don expressed his appreciation for the ability to live his dreams ... with his soulmate and wife, Adela, and sharing the music that made him an Everly Brother.”

Don and his younger brother Phil were in the first group to be inaugurated in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, alongside Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis. Their family harmonies set them apart, as did an out-of-time gentleness: the Everly Brothers’ well-crafted songs floated between country and city and moved with the rhythms of a dream.

February 1, 1937 – August 21, 2021
In a five-year span from 1957 to 1962, they had 15 top 10 hits, among them: “Bye Bye Love,” which launched them; “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” written by Boudleaux Bryant; and “Cathy’s Clown,” which was a No. 1 hit in 1960 and a No. 1 country hit for Reba McEntire in 1989.

Their harmonies influenced the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel in the 1960s, and a decade later their Appalachian roots inspired country rockers like Gram Parsons and Linda Ronstadt, who had a hit covering their “When Will I Be Loved” in 1972.

Isaac Donald Everly was born Feb. 1, 1937, and shared a first name with his formidable father, “Ike” Everly. Ike was a coal miner in Brownie, Ky., and Don was born in Brownie’s coal camp. Ike also was a guitar player, taught by Arnold Schultz, the Black musician who taught Bill Monroe. And when the coal was gone, Ike moved the family to Chicago in the late 1930s in search of a career in music.

A second son, Phil, was born there, and the family moved to Shenandoah, Iowa, where Ike had a radio show in the mid-1940s. “Little Donnie” sang the theme, “Free as a Little Bird as I Can Be,” and then Phil was brought in, and with that the Everly Family was on the air.

The Everlys next moved to Knoxville, Tenn., in 1953; the teenage brothers were viewed as long-haired, leather-jacket-wearing toughs. Ike got a meeting for the boys with country music mogul Chet Atkins in Nashville, and Atkins was so impressed with Don’s songwriting that he placed one of his songs with Kitty Wells.

In 1955 the family moved to Nashville and the boys auditioned for labels as a brother act. A single they made went nowhere, and they then signed with Cadence and were given a tune to kick around written by two of the hottest songwriters in town, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. “Bye Bye Love” topped the country chart and hit No. 2 on the pop chart and No. 5 on the rhythm and blues chart in 1957. Another Bryant number, “Wake Up Little Susie,” topped the pop charts in 1957. When Chuck Berry was asked what song he most wished he’d written, he declared it was “Susie.” “All I Have to Do Is Dream” followed in 1958.

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