Playback: Everly Brothers

Music Features Everly Brothers

When they first became stars in 1957, it seemed like the Everly Brothers had been dispatched from heaven above—God’s idea of what rock ’n’ roll angels might sound like. With their fresh-faced good looks and ethereal singing, siblings Don and Phil became instant teen idols, and songs like “Bye Bye Love” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream” became hugely influential hits. Drawing from Appalachian traditions, the intricate two-part harmonies developed by the Nashville-based brothers became sacred texts for duet partners as far-flung as New York’s Simon and Garfunkel and Liverpool’s Lennon and McCartney.

Perhaps because the Everlys’ ’50s Cadence recordings loom so large in pop history, their output for Warner Brothers—the group’s label home during of the ’60s—is frequently overlooked. While some of it was undeniably hit-and-miss, they still cut some terrific albums for Warner. Thanks to Collectors’ Choice Music, which has just reissued fifteen of the duo’s original Warner LPs, that work appears ripe for re-discovery—and re-evaluation.

One collection that certainly warrants greater attention is 1960’s A Date With The Everly Brothers, which underscores the profound effect they had on the nascent Beatles—and not just their vocals, either. You can hear it on tracks like the riff-based take on Little Richard’s “Lucille” and the clever guitar-bass-drums interplay of “So How Come (No One Loves Me),” written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who wrote numerous Everly classics. Date also includes The Bryants’ “Love Hurts,” which, along with “Sleepless Nights” (found on the same year’s It’s Everly Time!) became touchstones for Gram Parsons and virtually all country-rockers since—as did much of the Everly Brothers’ music.

This part of the Everlys’ legacy has definitely received short shrift over the years, and to that end, I suggest seeking out Roots, their stunning, final Warner studio set. Produced by Lenny Waronker, inventively arranged by guitarist Ron Elliott (from underrated country-rock pioneers the Beau Brummels), and featuring panoramic versions of songs by everyone from Jimmie Rodgers (“T for Texas”) to Randy Newman (“Illinois”), Roots was well ahead of several curves when it first appeared in late ’68.

Also highly recommended are: ’66’s Two Yanks In England, featuring both compositions and accompaniments from The Hollies; 1970’s intimate concert recording, The Everly Brothers Show; and The New Album, a ’77 set of rarities previously available only in Europe. Sadly, it’s been mainly overseas where Don and Phil Everly have remained appreciated—and with far more loyalty than here at home. Hopefully this treasure trove will change things.

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