R.I.P. Don Everly, one half of the pioneering pop duo The Everly Brothers
The frequent Ed Sullivan Show singer and Beatles influencer was 84.
Elvis joined the Army, the Everlys enlisted in the Marines. In early 1962, brothers Don and Phil were barely out of boot camp when they made another appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, sporting buzz cuts and Marine Corps uniforms. The siblings sang "Jezebel" and "Crying in the Rain," in one of the rare appearances during their service.
By that time, the brothers had made a sizable impact on the coming wave of rock legends. The Beatles and Beach Boys were just getting started, having grown up on the harmonies and sprightly acoustic shuffle of the Everly Brothers. Born into a musical family — their parented literally had a group called the Everly Family featuring "Little Donnie and Baby Boy Phil" — the Everlys burst out of the Nashville scene with the help of the new medium of television. Just like Elvis, the Everlys had country roots, youthful energy, savvy song selection, and the help of Ed Sullivan.
"Bye Bye Love," their first smash hit in 1957, had famously been rejected by dozens of other acts. The Everlys pounced on the tune, with Don adding a nifty guitar intro. Elvis blocked the Everlys reaching No. 1 on the pop charts (the song peaked at No. 2) but it did top the country charts.
Their follow-up had no such obstacles. "Wake Up Little Susie" soared to No. 1, in no small part thanks to some confused controversy. The ditty is about two teenagers who fall asleep at the movies, but the pearl-clutchers out there read more salacious meaning in the lyrics. The Everlys' clean-cut look, their sharp Ivy League suits, helped smooth over such bumps. In fact, they gave fashion advice to Buddy Holly and his Crickets, convincing that group to sport suits. It's hard not to see that same sartorial influence carrying through to the Beatles.
The hits kept coming. "All I Have to Do Is Dream" and "Cathy's Clown" both hit No. 1. Ironically — or perhaps this is the way the industry works — the groups that took influence from the Everly Brothers quickly knocked them into relative irrelevance. As the British Invasion took hold, the Everly Brothers struggled in the charts. "If the Everly Brothers can do it, me and Paul can," John Lennon famously said.
The Everly Brothers retreated back to the comforts of country music. While the radio might have largely ignored their efforts, television still welcomed the harmonizing brothers. In 1970, the Everly Brothers landed their own variety show, The Everly Brothers Show, a summer replacement for Johnny Cash. The brothers had shaggy hair by this point, as seen up top.
The following year, the Everlys appeared on Ed Sullivan one final time. The two closed with "Bye Bye Love," the first song they had ever played on the program.
Fifteen years later, the Everly Brothers were one of the first ten acts inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
On August 21, Don passed away in his Nashville home, according to The Los Angeles Times. The last surviving member of the duo was 84.