Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Everly Brothers

Some 50 years after their recording debut, it seems that it's Everly time all over again. With the looming dates of their first concert tour in years and more Everly Brothers music in print than at any time since the early 1960s, the duo's heavenly harmonies have once again settled upon the public consciousness.

As remarkable a feat as this may seem, much of their legacy still rests upon the music they made for Archie Bleyer's Cadence label between 1957 and 1960. The reasons are obvious: for three years, Don and Phil were part of an unbeatable team. Bleyer provided the production and marketing acumen to launch their careers. Boudleaux and Felice Bryant composed the songs that perfectly suited their voices and Nashville pickers like Chet Atkins served up sympathetic and snappy musical arrangements in short order. Though the duo would reach similar artistic and commercial heights when they moved to the Warner Bros. label in 1960, their winning run of recordings would not be repeated.

Born into music, Don and Phil began performing as children in the mid-40s. Their father Ike Everly, and accomplished guitarist, hosted a variety of rural radio programs which eventually incorporated his whole family. Wife Margaret and sons Don (born February 1, 1937) and Phil (born January 9, 1939) all took their turns at the mic in varying combinations as they honed their harmony skills. However, by 1953 the family's format had reached its end. As recorded music overtook the need for live performers, Don and Phil became infatuate with introducing rock and rhythm and blues flavors to their standard folk and country repertoire.

The mid-50s found the family struggling to survive. Ike and Margaret worked odd jobs to support their sons' burgeoning musical career, while Don and Phil focused on songwriting and knocking on doors near Nashville. Their first recording deal with Columbia was a fleeting failure and it was not until the duo met up with Wesley Rose that they were truly on the path to success. Being one of the most powerful music magnates in Nashville (and the owner of the colossal Acuff Rose publishing company), Wesley Rose found the brothers a home with East Coast indie label Cadence Records. Rose further coupled Don and Phil with the husband and wife writing team of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, and the rest is, as they say, history.

The Everly Brothers' first Cadence release, 1957's Bye Bye Love, began a solid string of thirteen Top 40 hits for the label. But by 1964, the Everly and many of their label mates had departed from Cadence (and the charts). Resultantly, founder Archie Bleyer sold his musical assets to former signee, singer Andy Williams. Although Williams held back the Everly masters for six years, 1970 saw the first in a flood of nostalgic reissues of the duo's Cadence recordings (a trend which continues to this day). Nevertheless, these collections are simply a shuffling of the same forty songs the brothers cut for the label.

March 1985 saw the first compilation that deviated from this format, Rhino Records' 'All They Had To Do Was Dream.' Compiled entirely from outtakes and demos, this set lifted the lid on what still remained within the Cadence archive. Bear Family's 'Classic Everly Brothers' (BCD 15618) box set further collected these outtakes with a few added obscurities, giving enthusiasts and historians a more complete picture of what occurred during those times.

Now, some twenty years later, Everly fans are once again allowed back into the archive to hear a newly unearthed set of working versions and musical sketches from that magical era. A compelling study of the creative process behind the legendary Cadence masters, this set gives one a fresh perspective on these, the Everlys' most popular sides. You won't hear perfection at every turn. Yet, nearly every track exhibits a talented team on the verge of a musical breakthrough. So, pull up a chair and join us at RCA Victor Studios in Nashville, as we join the Everly Brothers in session.

--Andrew Sandoval
Hollywood, November 2005

Ladies and gentlemen, for your listening pleasure, The Everly Brothers.

Studio Outtakes (Bear Family)

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