Date of Birth: 19 January 1939, Chicago, Illinois, US
Birth Name: Phillip Everly
Nicknames: Phil Everly
Phil Everly, was the younger half of The Everly Brothers, the duo which helped to transform pop music in the 1960s before being eclipsed by the very bands that they had influenced.
The Everlys sprang from the traditional country music with which they had grown up, but in the late 1950s they took up the themes of teenage love and disappointment that became the staple diet of the emerging pop stars of the period. They never fully embraced rock and roll, but their breezy harmonies influenced many of the stars who followed them, including The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, and The Byrds groups whose popularity started to take off as that of the Everlys waned.
As they were overtaken by new musical fashions from the early 1960s onwards, The Everly Brothers continued to perform and record until 1973, when their relationship fractured publicly during a concert in California.
Phillip Everly was born in Chicago on January 19 1939, the son of Ike and Margaret Everly, who had a popular country singing act in the 1940s. He was almost exactly two years younger than his brother Don, but the boys’ parents brought them up as though they were twins. They shared birthday parties, and were dressed in the same clothes Don was not allowed to have a sports jacket until Phil was old enough to have one too.
Both boys attended high school at Shenandoah, Iowa, where their parents had a radio breakfast show, on which Don and Phil sang from childhood. After the family had moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, the brothers met the guitarist and producer Chet Atkins and other figures on the local music scene. They were briefly signed up to Columbia, for which they made their first record, Keep a-Lovin’ Me, which was released in February 1956 but made little impact.
It was when The Everly Brothers were taken up by the Cadence record label that their careers began to take off. In 1957 they recorded Felice and Boudleaux Bryant’s Bye Bye Love, on which Phil and Don played guitars alongside Chet Atkins and the Nashville session musician Ray Edenton. The song was an immediate hit, and established the brothers as the first successful pop act to come out of Nashville. Don and Phil bought a new Oldsmobile on the proceeds and embarked on a tour with Johnny Cash. They began sporting matching suits, and their growing army of fans had difficulty telling them apart (Don’s hair was darker, and his the deeper voice).
They followed this success in the same year with Wake Up Little Susie; This Little Girl of Mine; All I Have to Do Is Dream; and Claudette. Bird Dog and Devoted to You were released in 1958, and by now they were one of the most famous pop acts in the United States, as well known as Elvis Presley, Pat Boone and Ricky Nelson. They became close to Buddy Holly, who originally wrote his song Not Fade Away for The Everly Brothers they suggested that he record it himself.
After the release of Let It Be Me in 1959, the Everlys moved to Warner Bros Records. Cathy’s Clown, written by Don, remained at No 1 in America for five weeks in 1959 and topped the British charts for seven, selling more than eight million copies worldwide. On the back of its success Cadence delved into its archive to release When Will I Be Loved, which reached No 8 in the US and No 4 in Britain.
If the Everlys’ star burned bright, it also burned quickly, thanks to rapidly changing musical tastes in the Sixties. Indeed, by 1960 their best days were already behind them although in Britain that year they achieved three No 1s, with Walk Right Back, Ebony Eyes and Temptation.
In 1961 Phil and Don joined the Marines, serving for about six months, and then embarked on a European tour. It was while they were performing in London that Don’s addiction to amphetamines first began seriously to affect his career. Twice in 12 hours he was carted off to hospital, unconscious, and he was flown back to the United States, amid stories in the press that he had been struck down by food poisoning or a nervous breakdown. Phil had to finish the tour alone.
For three years the Everlys performed together only occasionally, although they continued to record, and their singles The Price of Love and Love Is Strange were successful in Britain. In 1968, with young music fans listening to bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and the West Coast acid rock fraternity, the Everlys came up with a concept album in which their own country music would be intercut with excerpts from old Everly Family radio shows from the early Fifties. The album, Roots, was a flop. Their deal with Warner Bros came to an end, and they signed with RCA, recording the albums Stories We Could Tell (1972) and Pass the Chicken and Listen (1973).
By now their relationship had become increasingly difficult, and on July 14 1973, when in concert at the John Wayne Theatre in Buena Park, California, Phil smashed his guitar and left the stage, leaving Don to announce the duo’s evident break-up. It was the start of a long estrangement. In 1981 Phil Everly said: “Although people looked at us like twins, we weren’t alike. Musically we were very closely educated, but we had different values. Everyone has the feeling that all you have to do is to achieve stardom and once you are there you can relax. It’s just the opposite. Once you get there, then the war really starts [and] the larger the odds are against you. We always had that feeling, will the next song be a success?”
At the same time he conceded that Don had been the more talented of the two: “His hands and ear for music are faster.”
For a decade they worked apart, making solo recordings. Phil released his first solo record, Star Spangled Banner, in 1973, to modest acclaim, and followed up with Phil’s Diner (1974) and Mystic Line (1975). He wrote Don’t Say You Don’t Love Me No More for the hit Clint Eastwood film Every Which Way But Loose (1978), performing it in duet with Eastwood’s co-star, Sondra Locke. He also wrote One Too Many Women In Your Life for the sequel, Any Which Way You Can (1980), in which he also made a cameo appearance.
In 1983 he released the solo album Phil Everly. The track She Means Nothing To Me, on which Cliff Richard was co-lead vocalist, reached the Top 10 in Britain. In June of the same year The Everly Brothers were reunited on stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London. They recorded for Mercury in Nashville, and continued to perform well into the new millennium. They were admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and in 1997 received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. They were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
Phil Everly was thrice married and had two sons, Jason and Chris, both singers and songwriters. He married his third wife, Patti Arnold, in 1999.