The final piece of the pioneering blood harmony duo The Everly Brothers has passed on. As confirmed by the family, Don Everly died on Saturday, August 21st at his home in Nashville. He was 84. His brother Phil died in 2014, meaning the towering legacy of this signing duo has now come to a close.
In a statement, the family of Don Everly said 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.” No cause of death was given.
First year inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis in 1986, the duo would also be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001, speaking to their cross-genre influence and appeal. Though they’re commonly more associated with the rock realm, The Everly Brothers’ ties and success in country music is just as significant, if not more.
Many of the duo’s best-known songs were written by husband and wife duo, and fellow Country Music Hall of Famers Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, including “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” and “Bird Dog.”
Oldest brother Don was born in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky on February 1st, 1937. Both the brother’s parents worked in coal mines early in their lives, and their father Ike Everly was also a guitar player. The brothers were mostly raised in Iowa, before relocating to Tennessee during their high school years. After graduation, both brothers moved to Nashville, where they began working with Chet Atkins, but ultimately rose to fame while working with Wesley Rose of the Acuff-Rose publishing company.
Partnering with Acuff-Rose is where the Everly Brothers gained access to A-list songwriting material, especially the works of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. In 1957, “Bye Bye Love” and “Wake Up Little Susie” became smash #1 singles in both country and pop, and they landed another hit with “All I Have To Do Is Dream” in 1958. These three songs alone made them one of the most influential acts in the history of popular American music. Then the Don Everly-penned “Cathy’s Clown” in 1960, and it put them back at #1 again.
In 1961 however, the brothers had a falling out with manager Wesley Rose. At the behest of Wesley, the brothers only used Acuff-Rose writers for their songs. But as time went on, The Everly Brothers wanted to record songs that didn’t fall under Acuff-Rose publishing. Wesley Rose adamantly refused, so The Everly Brothers dropped him as their manager. At the time, Acuff-Rose had a virtual monopoly on all the best songs and songwriters in the music business, especially for the type of music The Everly Brothers played.
The falling out with Wesley Rose meant the duo no longer had access to ‘A’ list song material. The Everly Brothers were one of the first artists to be squeezed by the restrictive environment of Music Row in Nashville, and have their careers suffer for it. The brothers soldiered on and continued to find moderate success, but struggled to attain the top-tier hits of their early career. The legal and financial issues the duo faced created a strain between the two brothers that in many ways would last the rest of their lives, all the way up to the death of Phil Everly in 2014.
But in a short time span, the harmony styling of The Everly Brothers became the gold standard of the discipline that artists yearn to achieve even today.
Don Everly is survived by his mother, Margaret, wife Adela, son Edan, and daughters Venetia, Stacy, and Erin who was once married to Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose.