Don Everly, Final Piece of The Everly Brothers, Has Died
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.
READ: How Music Row and Acuff-Rose Killed The Everly Brothers
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.
August 22, 2021 @ 2:21 am
It’s been a sad weekend, first with the news about Tom T Hall and now hearing this about Don Everly.
Despite them being made to record all Acuff-Rose music in their early days their biggest selling single Cathy’s Clown was penned by Don. It’s just such a pity the brothers weren’t allowed to chose the songs that suited them best. How many more great hits would they have come up with?
Like Elvis, the Everly Bros were part of my teenage years. The music then was new and exciting and 60 plus years later is still part of me. It can still move me in many different ways. It was the best of times.
August 22, 2021 @ 5:20 am
August 22, 2021 @ 9:51 am
Well sad to see. I liked the every brothers. Was kind of a shame with what happened by getting rid of their manager. I guess they felt they could write good enough by themselves to succeed but writing isn’t easy. In those days, you had to kind of play the game as they say to make it. My girlfriend has lots of family that live around where they were born. I didn’t realize they actually spent a lot of their life in Iowa. May he rest in peace.
August 22, 2021 @ 7:34 pm
Waylon Jennings took a stand against said coercion in the music business a few years later. Whether for better or worse? Maybe the jury is still out on this.
August 22, 2021 @ 4:31 am
If you’re looking for a current duo with a very similar sound, check out the Cactus Blossoms.
August 22, 2021 @ 6:56 am
They were amazing harmonizers and musicians. Very sad day for those of us who grew up listening to their great music.
August 22, 2021 @ 8:37 am
These guys were giants and revered by musicians across rock and country. Following their massively successful, self-titled debut album, they took a detour with Songs Our Daddy Taught Us which I believe were literally songs they learned from their father. That takes guts to produce a decidedly non-commercial album right after your breakthrough.
Speaking of Guns, Sweet Child o’ Mine was written for Don’s daughter.
In the early 90s, I saw them at the Westbury Music Fair. Great show. I was probably the youngest person there by about 20 years.
Trigger, you are particularly good at obituaries, even if I wished you had far fewer occasions to write them.
My condolences to the Everly family. Don & Phil are reunited to harmonize again.
August 22, 2021 @ 10:40 am
“Trigger, you are particularly good at obituaries, even if I wished you had far fewer occasions to write them.”
August 22, 2021 @ 3:53 pm
Yes I agree with this. His Tom T Hall obit was so good.
Scott R Avery
August 22, 2021 @ 9:55 am
Had the honor of seeing the Everly Brothers with Simon and Garfunkel. An evening of beautiful harmony rising above personal disharmony. RIP Don Everly.
August 22, 2021 @ 10:16 am
Went to their Central City KY Labor Day festival a few times. Saw John Prine, Bo Didley, Tammy Wynette among others. The Everly Brothers sound was so pure and beautiful.
August 22, 2021 @ 10:48 am
Keith Richards, who toured with the Everly Brothers early in the Stones’ career, called Don “one of the best rhythm guitar players I’ve ever heard.” A nice thing to add to the brothers’ vocal genius. Thank you for the fabulous music.
August 22, 2021 @ 1:35 pm
When I read that Don was survived by his mother, I had to look her up. She’s 102 …
August 22, 2021 @ 2:45 pm
That brings to mind John McCain, who was also survived by his mother, who I believe was 106 at the time he died.
Sir Adam the Great
August 22, 2021 @ 3:38 pm
That has to be the worst part of living such a long life; you will outlive almost everyone you know, even your children.
August 22, 2021 @ 1:52 pm
“Oldest brother Don was born in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky…”
That ‘Mulhlenburg County’ of John Prine Paradise fame?
August 23, 2021 @ 10:41 am
Yes, the same Muhlenberg County, home to Merle Travis as well, and across the Green River from neighboring Ohio County, the birthplace of Bill Monroe.
August 22, 2021 @ 3:56 pm
Should also be mentioned that the Everly Brothers were maybe the biggest influence of them all for the greatest band in music history the Beatles. Paul and John loved the Everlys’ and pattern their harmonizing on the early hits after Don and Phil.
McCartney even referenced ‘Don and Phil’ in his solo hit ‘Let ‘Em In’.
August 23, 2021 @ 11:05 am
I recall seeing the Everly Brothers in concert some years back. Great show with great harmonies and songs. Their music is timeless. A sad loss.