The stories behind Everlys’ hits
By BRIAN MANSFIELD
Between 1957 and 1962, Phil and Don Everly placed 34 songs on the Billboard pop charts, nearly half of them reaching the top 10. Here is some of their finest work:
‘Bye Bye Love’
The song had been floating around Nashville for a while when the Everlys got hold of it in 1957. (Brenda Lee, for instance, claims to have passed on recording it.) But the juxtaposition of heartbroken lyrics and carefree melody, combined with the brothers’ two-part harmony, made them instant stars. Its writers, Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, would pen the first six top 10 hits of the Everlys’ career.
‘Wake Up Little Susie’
Sure, Phil and Don sounded innocent when trying to explain that, no, really, they’d fallen asleep in a movie theater and that’s why they hadn’t gotten little Susie home until after 4 a.m. Some radio stations were so scandalized that they refused to play the record. There couldn’t have been too many of those, though: “Wake Up Little Susie” hit No. 1 on the pop, country and R&B charts.
‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’
Possibly the greatest make-out record of the 1950s. This track, with its tremelo guitar chords and harmonies that angels dream of replicating, also topped multiple charts.
The rocking B-side to “All I Have to Do Is Dream” came from another future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer: Roy Orbison, who had written the song for his wife. The cut also earned Orbison renewed interest from his record label at the time, Sun Records.
Everlys producer Archie Bleyer initially wanted TV ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson to record this cut’s spoken “He’s a bird … he’s a dog” in the voice of a dog puppet named Farfel. He got overruled, and “Bird Dog” became the Everlys’ third No. 1 hit.
‘Let It Be Me’
Don Everly found this French ballad on a Chet Atkins album. Atkins pointed the brothers to the lyrics, producer Bleyer added some strings — voila! — one of the act’s loveliest, most popular recordings.
In 1960, the Everlys left Cadence Records, signing a $1 million deal with Warner Bros. This Don Everly tune, with its distinctive drum rhythm, was the duo’s first release on the label and topped the pop chart.
‘When Will I Be Loved’
The biggest hit Phil Everly wrote for the duo. Recorded for Cadence before the act bolted, it came out just six weeks after “Cathy’s Clown.” Linda Ronstadt had an even bigger hit with it in 1975.
Brian Mansfield, Gannett News Service