As the Everly Brothers, Phil and his older brother Don’s steel-string acoustics
and close harmonies thrilled the rockin’ youth
culture of the ’50s, and left a mammoth and
indelible imprint on rock and country music.
The brothers were elected to the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame in 1986.
In the Studio
“In the ’50s, you’d rehearse a song three
or four times, and then you would cut it
four or five times. You were expected to
get four songs in a three-hour session.
But after you had a hit, they’d let you get
by with two or three. Isn’t that funny?
To tell you the truth, the only pressure
on us when we cut ‘Bye Bye Love’ was
making sure we got the $64 session fee
so that we could eat that week.
“Engineers were an integral part of the
process back then, because you were cutting
direct to tape, so all the mix moves
had to happen as you were cutting the
track. Take that ‘chick-chick-chunk’ fill
that Don does in ‘Bye Bye Love.’ During
run-throughs, the engineer would say the
part wasn’t barking the way he wanted
it, so Don would have to lean closer to
the mic for those parts, and the engineer
would have to raise the mic level at the
“Don and I would sing on one mic, and
then there would be a mic for his guitar,
and the other musicians would get their
own mics, as well. We played
live and no one used headphones.
The leakage was part
and parcel to the sound, and
everyone was paying attention
to what each other was
doing—which was one of the
great things about the way
recording sessions used to be.”
|One mic, two voices—Phil (left) and Don create their harmony-vocal magic.
“I hate to brag about it, but
Donald’s chord inversions,
fills, and rhythmic things on
songs such as ‘Wake Up Little
Susie,’ ‘Bird Dog,’ and ‘Bye Bye
Love’ are very important, and his style is
still emulated today. You have to think
about the history of it. That kind of playing
didn’t exist in rock music back then.
We had our dad showing us things, and
we had Bo Diddley’s rhythmic thing, and
Don kind of melded together those rhythms
with his own ‘incongruous’
chords. That’s when
a song like ‘Bye Bye Love’
jumped to life. My playing,
compared to Donald’s
is like a joke. I can’t say
I did anything special.”
Comrades In Arms
“My favorite guitar event
was in the parking lot of
the Grand Ole Opry when
it was at the Ryman Auditorium.
Merle Travis was
in town, my dad was there,
Chet Atkins was there,
and so were Don and I and about ten other
players. They formed a circle behind the
Ryman, all sitting on their haunches, and
they passed the guitar around and played.
Your jaw would fall open. Some people got
in the circle, but when it came their turn
to play, they’d chicken out, and pass the
guitar [laughs]. It was something to see.
I’ve never forgotten it.”
The Gibson Everly
“I thought up the pin-less bridge—which
was one of the first, if not the first—because
of Don breaking strings. I’d take his guitar,
try to find the bridge pin on the floor, and
then restring it so that we had two guitars
working. I thought of the Fender bridge,
and wondered if you could do it that way
for an acoustic guitar. We presented some
ideas to Gibson, and within a few months
we had our pin-less signature model with
the big pickguard and star inlays.”