Why the Everly Brothers Still Matter

The first thought that came to mind when word got out that Phil Everly had passed away Friday was just how long it's been since the Everly Brothers' harmonies topped the charts -- more than half a century now. The second was just how easy it is to spot their influence in a wealth of music right here in the 21st century. The more you learn about the duo's immense legacy, the more it feels like peeling an onion: an especially sweet onion, but one that could easily bring on a few tears.

The Kentucky-bred Everlys' most important innovation is simple, and just as profound: before Phil and his older brother Don (who survives him) hit it big in 1957 with "Bye Bye Love," rock and roll was dominated by solo acts: Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Elvis. Although the Everlys' close fraternal harmonies were commonplace in country music and bluegrass back then, they were unprecedented in rock and roll. But not for much longer: four of their most devoted disciples, one duo in New York City and another in Liverpool, were Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel and John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

"The Everly Brothers were the Beatles' Beatles," VH1's Bill Flanagan said yesterday on CBS Sunday Morning, explaining that even the late Dick Clark had once dismissed the Fab Four as mere Everly wannabes.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray