Phil Everly: Bye Bye Love

Phil Everly Cover Jan. 10 2014.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

Phil Everly, the high harmony voice of the iconic Everly Brothers with older brother Don, has passed away at age 74. A little more than 2 weeks away from his 75th birthday, Everly succumbed after a long battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was a longtime smoker.

The Everly Brothers harmony singing had a strong influence on rock groups of the 1960s. The Beatles, The Beach Boys  and Simon & Garfunkel developed their early singing styles by performing  Everly covers. The Bee Gees, the Hollies and other rock'n'roll groups were influenced by The Everly Brothers.

The brothers started working together as part of their father Ike Everly’s radio show on KMA and KFNF in Shenandoah, Iowa, in the 1940s. Singing on the show gave the brothers their first exposure to the music industry. The family sang together and lived and traveled in the area singing as The Everly Family.

Chet Atkins, a family friend, was  an early supporter of The Everly Brothers and  even though he was affiliated with  RCA Records, he arranged a chance for the Everly Brothers to record for Columbia Records in early 1956. Their first and only single for the label, "Keep A' Lovin' Me," was a flop, and they were quickly dropped from Columbia.

Atkins still encouraged The Everly Brothers to continue, and introduced them to Wesley Rose of Acuff-Rose music publishers. Impressed with the duo's songwriting talents, Rose told them that if they signed to Acuff-Rose as songwriters, he would also get them a recording deal. The duo signed to Acuff-Rose in late 1956, and by early 1957, Rose had introduced them to Archie Bleyer, who was looking for artists for his Cadence Records label. The Everlys signed to Cadence, and entered the recording studio for their first Cadence session in February 1957.

Their first Cadence single, "Bye Bye Love" had been rejected by 30 other acts, but the Everlys saw potential in the song. Their recording of "Bye Bye Love" reached No. 2 on the pop charts behind Elvis Presley’s “ Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear”, hitting No. 1 on the Country and No. 5 on the R&B charts. The song, written by the husband and wife Felice and Boudleaux Bryan, became The Everly Brothers' first million-seller.

They became a large and integral part of the Cadence label. Working with the Bryants, the brothers had hits in the United States and the United Kingdom, the biggest ones being "Wake Up Little Susie", "All I Have to Do Is Dream," "Bird Dog" and "Problems," all penned by the Bryants. The Everlys also found success as songwriters, especially with Don's "(Till) I Kissed You" which hit No. 4 on the United States pop charts.

The Everly BrothersThe Everly BrothersThe brothers toured extensively with Buddy Holly during 1957 and 1958. Phil tells the story of how while on the package tours Don and he would have a local trio back them up. “We got to one show, I think Bill Haley was producing it, and the three kids he hired for us literally could not play. Buddy and the Crickets, Joe B., Jerry Ivan, (Allison) and Nicky Sullivan, who left after that tour, and ofcourse Buddy,backed us up. Years later, of course, Don and I used The Crickets as a back-up band.” The story goes the clean cut, suited up brothers were influential in Buddy Holly’s ditching the blue jeans, white T shirt uniform in exchange for the more sophisticated suit and tie look.

The emergence of the British groups, spearheaded by The Beatles, saw a decline in the chart popularity of The Everlys whom John Lennon and Paul McCartney cited as being a huge influence on their harmony singing. They sang mostly in diatonic thirds and the harmonies could stand alone as melodies.  Ironically the group that was influenced by The Everlys would displace them on the charts. The irony continued when in 1983 the song chosen as their comeback single “On The Wings of a Nightingale” was written for them by Beatle Paul McCartney.

The two brothers broke up amid quarrelling in 1973 after 16 years of hits, then reunited in 1983, "sealing it with a hug," Phil Everly said. The infighting and hard feelings between The Everly Brothers were well-known, but surviving brother Don felt he had a special moment with his brother Phil before Phil's passing Friday — even if the two weren't together at the time.

"I was listening to one of my favourite songs that Phil wrote and had an extreme emotional moment just before I got the news of his passing," Don Everly wrote in a statement to The Associated Press. "I took that as a special spiritual message from Phil saying goodbye. Our love was and will always be deeper than any earthly differences we might have had."

Don Everly said he didn't expect to see the day his brother would pass.  "I loved my brother very much," the 76-year-old wrote. "I always thought I'd be the one to go first. ... The world might be mourning an Everly Brother, but I'm mourning my brother Phil Everly."