Phil Everly, the younger member of the fabled singing duo the Everly Brothers, died Friday (Jan. 3) in Burbank, Calif. He was 74.
His wife Patti told the Los Angeles Times he died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Everly was born Jan. 19, 1939, in Chicago, where his parents, Ike and Margaret, had gone to continue their career in radio as a family singing group. Phil and his brother, Don, who was two years older, joined the group while they were still kids.
The Everly family moved to Nashville in 1955. That same year, Don and Phil signed to Columbia Records but were unable to make a breakthrough on that label. In 1957, the brothers resurfaced on Cadence Records in a deal brokered by Wesley Rose of the Acuff-Rose music publishing company, for which Don had achieved a few cuts as a songwriter.
Their first single for Cadence, “Bye Bye Love,” written by Acuff-Rose’s Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, entered the country charts in May 1957 and quickly rose to the top, where it stayed for seven weeks. It also went to No. 2 on the pop chart, clearly establishing the brothers as a crossover act.
Over the next three years, the Everlys saturated both charts with teen-angst hits, most of them written by the Bryants. “Wake Up Little Susie,” their second Cadence single, stayed at No. 1 on the country charts for eight weeks and became their first No. 1 pop hit.
There followed the country No. 1’s “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “Bird Dog” and the Top 10 “This Little Girl of Mine,” “Should We Tell Him,” “Devoted to You” and “(’Til) I Kissed You.”
The Everlys were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1957, and many years later, their recordings of “Bye Bye Love” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream” were added to the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Gradually, the brothers began to have more success as pop than country artists. Their last single on the country charts (until they reunited in 1984) came in 1961 with “Ebony Eyes,” which peaked at No. 25.
On the pop side, however, they scored a five-week No. 1 in 1960 with “Cathy’s Clown” and steamed on into 1962 with the Top 10 “When Will I Be Loved,” “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad),” “Walk Right Back,” “Ebony Eyes,” “Crying in the Rain” and “That’s Old Fashioned (That’s the Way Love Should Be).”
They continued to chart pop singles up into 1967, but never had one that rose higher than No. 31.
After their volatile tempers and different career goals drove them apart, the two brothers did not return to the country and pop charts as a duo until 1984, when they made a mild comeback with “On the Wings of a Nightingale,” a song written by Paul McCartney and produced by Dave Edmunds. (McCartney has frequently acknowledged the Everly Brothers as a major influence on the Beatles’ harmony vocals, and George Harrison once recorded “Bye Bye Love” as an album track.)
Between 1984 and 1989, the Everlys charted five more country singles, the most promising of which, “Born Yesterday,” written by Don, went to No. 17.
In 1986, the Everly Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.
In 2001, the brothers were made members both of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.