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Passings: Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers (1939 - 2014)

Phil Everly, one half of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame brother duo the Everly Brothers, died on Friday from complications of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder) at the age of 74.

Phil's wife Patti told the L.A. Times that the disease was due to a lifetime of smoking. "We are absolutely heartbroken. He fought long and hard."

Phil and his brother Don, just under two years older, were born into a musical family. Their father, Ike, was a musician and he and his wife, Margaret, and their two sons had a radio show on KMA and KFNF in Shenandoah, IA in the 40's along with touring as the Everly Family.

After moving to Knoxville, TN, the now high school age brothers caught the ear of Chet Atkins who arranged for them to sign with Columbia in 1956. Their one and only single for the label, Keep A' Lovin' Me, did nothing and the brothers found themselves again without a contract.

Atkins next brought them to Acuff-Rose publishing where they signed as songwriters with the promise that they would also get a recording contract. That promise was fulfilled in 1957 when they signed with Cadence Records and they immediately went into the studio to record Felice and Boudleaux Bryant's Bye Bye Love. The song went to number 2 on the Pop and 1 on the Country charts and started the Everly's on a long association with the songwriting duo.

Over the next two years, the Everly's would score five additional top ten hits, two of which hit number 1, with songs by one or both of the Bryant brothers (Wake Up Little Susie, All I Have to Do is Dream, Bird Dog, Devoted to You and Problems).

Their hit run was followed by almost a year when none of their singles made the top 15, so the brothers began recording songs that they had written ((Till) I Kissed You, Cathy's Clown, When Will I Be Loved) and were written by others (Let It Be Me) to extend their hit making days. They also left Cadence for Warner Brothers in 1960 and, for a time, both labels were releasing Everly singles.

Shortly after signing with Warner, the Everly's got into a disagreement with Wesley Rose of Acuff-Rose and were no longer able to record songs from their roster of writers including the Bryants and, ironically, themselves. Their songs, old and any new, were still controlled by the company, so the Everlys started to record music by writers outside of the Acuff-Rose stable including Walk Right Back (Sonny Curtis), Ebony Eyes (John D. Loudermilk) and Crying in the Rain (Howard Greenfield and Carole King).

Rain's followup, That's Old Fashioned, became the last top ten hit for the Everlys and the fall was fast and hard. They only reached the top 40 one more time in their career with 1967's Bowling Green, which peaked just at 40. They also tried their hand at running their own record company, Calliope Records, and Phil put together a short lived side project, the Keestone Family Singers, with Glen Campbell and Carole King that only recorded one unsuccessful single.

By the mid-60's, the brothers had settled their difference with their former publishers and were once again able to record their own songs, but by that time they both had addiction problems and, at one time during a European tour, Don had to leave for hospitalization leaving Phil to sing with the band's bass player.

Throughout their career, Don and Phil were known for the quality of their albums from 1958's Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, which was filled with traditional folk and country songs, to 1968's Roots, which critics considered an early example of country rock. Unfortunately, the two brothers began to have regular disagreements and, in 1973, they split, reportedly not speaking for almost a decade.

Phil became an active solo artist and songwriter that peaked in 1983 with the album Phil Everly which included the duet with Cliff Richard She Means Nothing to Me, a single that peaked in the U.K. top ten.

On September 23, 1983, Don and Phil reunited for the first time in a decade at Royal Albert Hall in London for a show that was recorded and released as a double live album. While their relationship remained rocky, they did work together fairly regularly over the remaining years, including three albums, EB 84 (1984), Born Yesterday (1986) and Some Hearts (1988).  Phil also remained active recording on his own and in duets with others including Vince Gill on his album These Days.

The Everly Brothers were one of ten artists that were in the very first class for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

Everly is survived by his wife, his mother, two sons, two grandaughters and his brother, Don.

The hits of the Everly Brothers:

  • Bye Bye Love (1957 / #2 Pop / #1 Country)
  • Wake Up Little Susie (1957 / #1 Pop / #1 Country)
  • This Little Girl of Mine (1958 / #26 Pop / #4 Country)
  • Should We Tell Him (1958 / #26 Pop / #10 Country)
  • All I Have to Do is Dream (1958 / #1 Pop / #1 Country)
  • Bird Dog (1958 / #3 Pop / #1 Country)
  • Devoted to You (1958 / #10 Pop / #7 Country)
  • Problems (1958 / #2 Pop / #17 Country)
  • (Till) I Kissed You (1959 / #4 Pop / #8 Country)
  • Let It Be Me (1960 / #7 Pop)
  • Cathy's Clown (1960 / #1 Pop)
  • When Will I Be Loved (1960 / #8 Pop)
  • So Sad (1960 / #7 Pop)
  • Walk Right Back (1961 / #7 Pop)
  • Ebony Eyes (1961 / #8 Pop / #25 Country)
  • Crying in the Rain (1962 / #6 Pop)
  • That's Old Fashioned (1962 / #9 Pop)
  • Dare to Dream Again (Phil Everly only / 1980 / #9 Adult Contemporary / #63 Country)