More Than a Mother: Everly Brothers Matriarch Dies at 102

The passing of a performer’s mother is not always especially noteworthy, but Margaret Everly wasn’t just some performer’s mother. It’s also uncommon for a mother to outlive her offspring, especially when there are multiple of them, and when they lived long and fulfilling lives themselves. But when you have your children before you’re 20, and pass away ten days after you turn 102 like Margaret Everly did, it makes you a remarkable exception. Margaret Everly also lived one remarkable life.

Margaret Everly was much more than the mom of the famous Everly Brothers, whose impact on American music installed them as one of the very first members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and later landed them in the Country Music Hall of Fame as well. Margaret was the pillar and soul of a professional family band where Don and Phil Everly first got their start performing, and acted as her the biggest champion of her sons as they endured for acceptance and success in American music.

Born in Kentucky on November 25, 1919, Margaret Everly was married to her childhood sweetheart Ike by the time she was 15. Ike was working in the Kentucky coal mines when eldest son Don was born in Muhlenberg County on February 1, 1937. By the time Phil was born on January 19, 1939, Ike had relocated the family to Chicago where he performed as a singer and guitar player on radio stations WJJD and WLS during the era when radio shows were performed live.

But Chicago is not where the couple wanted to raise their two sons. They wanted them to grow up in a more rural environment. So in 1944, the family moved to Waterloo, Iowa where Ike continued to perform on the radio. Margaret had been joining her husband on radio programs to sing upon occasion for years, but in the late 40’s she went from a special guest to part of a family band with their two sons. By 1950 they were called “The Everly Family Show” featuring the exquisite blood harmonies the Everly Brothers would become famous for in subsequent years.

After performing regularly at numerous Midwest radio stations, the singing family eventually moved to Knoxville, TN in 1953. Father Ike was the leader on the band and taught their two sons how to perform and sing, but Margaret handled much of the booking and business affairs for the outfit. The move to Tennessee eventually helped facilitate the Every Brothers’ dive into the music business as a duo. As the brothers began to venture out on their own, Ike decided to retire from music and become a barber. It was Margaret who brought the boys to Nashville, and became their champion in town.

Producer Chet Atkins was a early believer in the Everly Brothers, but an early single in 1956 called “Keep A-Lovin’ Me” fizzled, and it looked like they may not make it. But Margret persevered for her boys, and kept knocking on doors to get them heard. It was working with song publisher Acuff-Rose, and partnering with songwriters Felice and Boudleaux Bryant that resulted in the duo’s first big hit “Bye Bye Love.” The song put The Everly Brothers on the map in both rock and country, and soon they would be superstars.

As their careers took off, Margaret still worked behind-the-scenes as one of their champions. For decades, the bedrooms of both Don and Phil from when they were teenagers were kept just the way they were in Margaret’s Nashville home.

Phil Everly passed away in 2014, and Don Everly passed away earlier this year on August 21st at the age of 84, still survived by mother Margaret. Margaret Embry Everly died on December 6th. She will be laid to rest at Woodlawn Memorial Mausoleum in Nashville.

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