This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
THE EVERLY BROTHERS were unusual in the first blossoming of rock & roll. There were two of them for a start and they brought a country music sensibility to their music. Okay, Elvis and Buddy Holly did the same but it was more up-front with the Everlys.
They had Chet Atkins as producer on many of their records as well as playing lead guitar. With Don, the older brother, they had one of the best rhythm guitarists around as well as a great lead singer. With Phil they had the finest harmony singer in rock & roll.
Their influence was huge – The Beatles, The Hollies, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds and the Beach Boys (and many lesser musicians) have all acknowledged the debt they owe to the brothers.
There was the famous rift when, the story goes, they didn't speak to each other for ten years. Although he denies it, it's pretty certain that guitar whiz Albert Lee was instrumental in getting them back performing again.
Albert was their guitarist and musical director for the rest of their career (about a quarter of a century).
From the beginning both Don and Phil wrote songs but early on they also had Felice and Boudleaux Bryant writing them as well. Most of their early hits were written by them, including Take A Message To Mary.
Skipping forward a little, the brothers changed record companies so they'd have greater control over their music.
Unfortunately, because of silly contractual arrangements they weren't allowed to record new Felice and Boudleaux songs. It means they wrote more themselves, including Cathy's Clown, one of Don's, and it was their biggest selling single.
One of my favorites from back then, although seldom mentioned whenever their top songs are discussed, is That's Old Fashioned. I think it was more to do with what I was doing at the time (final year of high school).
I originally had the song Why Worry penciled in at this spot. It was from their wonderful album "Born Yesterday", from the eighties, on which they performed as well as they did in their heyday.
I have since discovered this Youtube clip featuring Mark Knopfler, who wrote the song and originally performed it with Dire Straits, and Chet Atkins playing guitar. Mark has said that he wrote the song with the Everlys in Mind.
I'm a sucker for totally out there songs that make Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, look at me sideways and say, "Oh really?" I mention this as when I was a whippersnapper I bought a 45 of the Everlys' record Ebony Eyes. After a few plays I turned it over and discovered Walk Right Back on the flip side (well, it was really the A side).
In 1972, not too long before their decade long split, they released a rather fine album called "Stories We Could Tell". This included songs by contemporary (at the time) songwriters like Kris Kristofferson, Rod Stewart, Jesse Winchester as well as some of their own.
From the album, here is the title track Stories We Could Tell, written by John Sebastian.
On a whim, Carole King (who usually wrote songs with Gerry Goffin) and Howard Greenfield (usually with Jack Keller) decided to switch partners for a day (we're talking about writing partners, don't read anything into that).
The song they came up with is Crying in the Rain, which became yet another hit.
Wake Up Little Susie was a very early song, and the Everlys' first number one. It's another Felice and Boudleaux composition. For some reason, it was banned in some of the more "respectable" places in the world. Not here in Melbourne, fortunately.
Don wrote So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad) that they took to the pointy end of the charts in 1960. This has been recorded by many performers over the years, most notably, from my point of view, Emmylou Harris.
Arms of Mary was written by Iain Sutherland who performed the song with his group The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver (who were really two groups shoehorned together).
The Everlys recorded it on one of the come-back albums ("Born Yesterday") and did an even better version than the original, itself pretty good.
Phil died in 2014, but as of this writing, Don is still with us.