What a bunch. It’s great one doesn’t have to join the group to read the “Forum” section of the Everly Brothers fan site. The entertainment there is endless.
One cannot deny there is an abundance of truth in the fact that The Everly Brothers were simply in the music industry during a transition period for music. They were country singers who just happened to also be teenagers who found boppin around to a few songs that were of the energy level of Elvis, Big Bopper, Richie Valens and Buddy Holly a new experience for them. The fact they influenced groups and duos to follow was based on their close harmony, not the songs. The influence of Buddy Holly on some of those same groups was the music itself. In fact, when one realizes how close they were to Buddy Holly, it’s unrealistic to say Buddy wasn’t a very big influence on them, even though they credit others for that.
The big hits they made in the 50s and 60s were dependent on their yet to mature vocals to sound the way they did. It is unreasonable to think that they could sing those songs 20, 30, 50 years later and still have them sound the way they originally did. Those songs weren’t written for mature vocals. It was impossible to not notice they had “lost” the voices to give those songs the squeal that made the girls swoon some 20 years, and beyond, later. That’s NOT an insult or criticism to the Brothers, though I can’t say it isn’t an observation on the fans — especially the still swooning senior citizens who are of the hysterical notion that Don reads their comments and hopes to find them in his arms one day, just as they dream it is possible.
Most of the articles and interviews that can be found with the brothers tell such conflicting stories about their careers and relationships. One article will tell how Phil is the quiet one who doesn’t engage with the fans while Don ended the concerts with loud parties in his dressing room, then the next one will say Don retreats quietly to a private location while Phil engages with the fans. Phil said their battles were ALL about the industry, yet the majority of the articles, as well as Don’s version, is that they were completely different personalities and just couldn’t tolerate the way the other lived. It isn’t difficult to drift into the conclusion that Phil had no respect for the way Don abandoned his children, but Phil’s track record for relationships was pretty close to Don’s lousy history. Phil ended up with a bride who was young enough to be his daughter, though Don ended with one who probably could have been his granddaughter. It’s selfish, in my opinion, for anyone to marry a person so much younger that they are almost guaranteed to be alone at a really vulnerable and unattractive time in their later lives.
Don married a very young woman who went to Nashville to find a career for herself. He didn’t just take her out of circulation, he took away her dream — unless, of course, she saw living off his career success the more appealing choice. Last video I saw of him nearly 10 years ago made it look like he could do little more than hobble on his old legs.
The battle of the brothers WAS personal between them. Interviews say they weren’t speaking to each other during their last tour in the UK in the late 90s – Don had his wife and her twin sister along for that one, like a good sugardaddy would. On stage with Simon and Garfunkel around 2005-6 showed Phil keeping his back to Don, though glancing Don’s way just to see if Don was looking at him now and then. When they finished their song, they left the stage in a way that displayed total disdain for one another. Sorry, that’s NOT what Phil professed as giving the fans what they want and putting grievances aside to provide the fans with the kind of show they paid good money to see. This was no one-sided argument. Most families have siblings who subscribe to different life-styles and attitudes, and this isn’t the way they handle it. What Don and Phil display is an anger that is seriously rooted in some cruel behaviors that deeply hurt one or the other, maybe both.
Phil was clearly more open to doing what he was told to do by the handlers just to collect the money. Don, on the other hand, had a real passion and talent for music. He wrote some wonderful songs, and his voice was so captivating. The music he did while they were apart, and in those later years when they were still performing was really sad, and may well be why they didn’t get their second shot at fame. I can only listen to a Don Everly track if it is immediately followed by something that brings me back up out of that darkness he takes the listener into. His matured vocals with songs of heartbreak was quite the combo. Considering the nature of the artists of the 70s (Loggins & Messina, Eagles, Foreigners, Chicago, Bruce Springsteen, etc) and the break-out artists of the 80s (Bryan Adams, Sting, Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler, Jimmy Buffett) they would have had to add a band and change their name to find space for themselves in the country/pop genre.
I saw the brothers several times – once near the end of their first run, and a couple of times after reunion. They had no stage presence. Phil was awkward in his efforts to act cool and move like a musician with physical rhythm. He just didn’t have it, and his really airy, soft voice with slight lisp seemed to show a fear of exposing his personality to the audience. They didn’t engage with the fans at all at any event I went to. They just stood there, sang the list of songs they had planned, and walked away. Not much had changed – even in the mid-80s they were still wearing a tux to perform in and singing the songs they could no longer sing. They probably could have gotten away with it if they had done some new arrangements to fit their maturing vocals, though.
It was a very rough career, and resulting life for both of them. They didn’t seem to know how to back away, regain control and remaster their early success into something that was more suited to the changes in the industry, their own worlds, and times in general. By the time they did the reunion, it was too late to “change their tune” – they came back as a nostalgia act, and that’s what they ended up doing for the rest of their lives. Shame, really. The possibilities they came into their 20’s with were incredible. Then, so many of their fellow performers ended up in early deaths, and at least they escaped that.