Sunday, August 22, 2021

Don Everly

When I was nine, I along with my two closest cousins took accordion lessons (it was something our dads wanted). Music lessons, regardless of the instrument, are a valuable tool -- studying an instrument enhances brain development and memory and concentration, as well as coordination. And it can be fun if the kid is matched to the right instrument. Accordion wasn't for me, but learning how to play pleased my dad, so that was a net plus.

Our teacher decided it would be fun for the three of us to form a little trio. I don't know if it was simply a fun diversion for her or if she actually saw something in us (it was the former, no doubt). Thus, I got moved to the drum (yes, drum, singular -- a snare drum), my cousin Paul stuck with the accordion, and his sister Karen got to learn some guitar chords. For the life of me, I don't remember what we called ourselves -- something Ramblers, I think. Our moms were excited. They outfitted us in fringed felt skirts (not Paul), plastic boots and matching black bolero hats. We memorized our meager repertoire and showed up to entertain at nursing homes and street fairs. I liked performing, really liked it. Our appearances were a welcome diversion. I've always been prone to boredom, and these little entertainment moments stirred up a bit of excitement.

What does this have to do with Don Everly?

Well, our trio's big "hit number" was Bye Bye Love. Though my teacher favored my cousin Karen, she inexplicably gave me the first verse to belt out. I felt like a star. And our version of the song was a hit, at least with the geriatric crowd and later with my uncle's bar patrons, who proffered dollar bills or a couple of quarters to have us sing it again.

So, Bye Bye Love has always held a special place in my heart.

There goes my baby with someone new

He sure looks happy, I sure am blue

Frankly, at nine, the Everly Brothers were a little bit before my time. I'd of course heard them on my mom's kitchen radio, but Bye Bye Love was the only track of the brothers that actually registered with me. My brother, who was nine years older then me and owned (it seemed) every album in the world, possessed their greatest hits album, and I eventually, after I got done secretly borrowing every other LP he owned, got around to listening to the Everlys.

Little kids don't like ballads. Their musical taste is sadly unsophisticated. So I was drawn to more peppy, simpler tracks, like this:

 This one, though, written by Don, might be my favorite:

Later, of course, I was introduced, sometimes in a roundabout way (hear me, Nazareth and Krauss/Plant?) to their phenomenal ballads.

(best quality video I could find)

As my tastes (and I) matured, I grew to love the Everlys' ballads, like these:


Their hits that were written by Felice and Beaudloux Byrant weren't among my favorites (except for Bye Bye Love), maybe because they smacked of novelty songs, although Wake Up Little Susie wasn't bad. (Don's opening guitar riff improved the track by miles).

In 1984, when an Everlys track blasted out of my radio speaker, I was happy. Though this is nowhere near the best song Paul McCartney ever wrote, it's all in the presentation, kids:

What did the Everly Brothers do for music? From The Guardian:

Quite aside from the Beatles, the Everly Brothers were feted by everyone from the Rolling Stones – Keith Richards hailed Don as “one of the best rhythm guitar players I’ve ever heard” and called their voices “almost mystical” – to the Beach Boys. Paul Simon called them “the most beautiful-sounding duo I ever heard”, Bob Dylan claimed “we owe these guys everything – they started it all”, while Neil Young suggested his entire career was based on trying and failing to sound like them.
The duo fractured acrimoniously in 1973 and would remain broken for almost ten years, until a breathtaking reunion concert at Royal Albert Hall in '83 reminded everyone of the treasure we'd all been missing. I can't count the number of times I watched the concert on HBO; then ran out and bought the live album. I'm not sure I really, truly appreciated the brothers until then.

Phil Everly passed away in 2014. Don Everly died August 21, 2021 at the age of 84. 

Nobody (nobody) is going to come along to replace the Everly Brothers. And that's okay. Some artists are considered singular for a reason. 

And thanks, Don and Phil, for providing me with my short moment in the sun.

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