Everly Brothers Country Music
Phil and Don Everly, left to right, of the Everly Brothers joke around for photographers on Jan. 4, 1984 in New York City. (AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine)

Don Everly, One-Half of The Everly Brothers, Dies at Age 84

The Musicians Hall of Fame broke the news on Saturday night (Aug, 21) that Don Everly, one-half of vocal duo The Everly Brothers, had passed away at age 84.

Alongside his younger brother Phil, who'd passed away in 2014, Don altered the course of popular music en route to membership in multiple halls of fame.

"Don lived by what he felt in his heart," read a statement from the family (as reported by the Los Angeles Times)." Don expressed his appreciation for the ability to live his dreams ... with his soulmate and wife, Adela, and sharing the music that made him an Everly Brother."

Deep Country Roots

If you grew up listening to oldies radio, then you probably associate The Everly Brothers' "Cathy's Clown" and other obvious hits with the early Beatles more so than young Johnny Cash. Yet the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame duo of Don and Phil Everly always had deep roots in country music, dating back to appearances as children on father Ike Everly's hillbilly radio show alongside Merle Travis and other emerging talents. Those beginnings, plus an innate ability to bridge the gap between country and rock audiences, is why the brothers also claimed a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame rotunda back in 2001.

Pop-Country's Forefathers

In the mid-'50s, the Everly family moved to Nashville. There, the brothers worked with family friend Chet Atkins, who'd facilitate the brothers signing with Acuff-Rose as songwriters. While the brothers went on to become renown for co-write "When Will I Be Loved" and other American pop standards, their first hit single came via the pen of "Rocky Top" composers Boudleaux and Felice Bryant. Bryant family co-write "Bye Bye Love" came out in 1957 on Cadence Records and pushed the country and rock hybrid known as rockabilly further into teenage culture.

The Everly Brothers would go on to have more success with Bryant family compositions, namely "Wake Up Little Susie," "All I have to Do is Dream" and the more country-sounding "Bird Dog."

Changing popular music trends and stints in the military for both brothers halted chart success in the states as the '60s went on, although the Everlys continued scoring hits in the UK and Canada.

The Roots of Their Raising

Even at their pop peak, the Everly Brothers never fully shunned their country roots. The brothers' second album, 1958's Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, consists of folk standards and singing cowboy trail anthems. On the 1963 album The Everly Brothers Sing Great Country Hits, Don and Phil covered Cash's "I Walk the Line," Don Gibson's "Oh Lonesome Me" Wanda Jackson's "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" and Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." Five years later, country nostalgia gave way to country-rock innovation with the album Roots. As country music changed in the '70s, so did the brothers' cover material. On 1972's Pass the Chicken and Listen, they interpret the songs of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury and Guy Clark.

After the brothers split in the '70s, Don Everly continued cutting country-tinged rock records, including 1974 album Sunset Towers. In the late '70s, Don became the first artist to record "Brother Jukebox," a future No. 1 for '90s country star Mark Chesnutt.

This story originally ran on June 22, 2018.