Phil Everly’s indelible mark on the formation of rock and the subsequent course of popular country music is nearly incalculable. Alongside sibling Don, The Everly Brothers assisted ushering in a roots sensibility to a newly established genre of music, while unknowingly pitting themselves as progenitors of a musical epicenter. Phil Everly’s presence would continue to inspire the likes of Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, and Brian Wilson, as well as contemporaries Elvis Presley and George Jones.
The sharp vocals and twangy rockabilly guitar of The Everly Brothers became the perfect synthesis of early rock, country, and R&B, and endeared listeners with their “tradition vs. defiance” persona. Neither a rebel nor conformist Everly broke new ground with such songs as “Walk Right Back”, “Bye Bye Love”, and “Wake Up Little Susie”. The duo’s charm and energy was a stark contrast to much of the benign and watered-down vigor of the early rock ‘n’ roll catalogue.
It’s no doubt Buddy Holly saw much of himself in Phil and Don Everly when the Texan rock pioneer asked the brothers to tour alongside The Crickets from 1957-58. Phil would later act as a pallbearer for Holly’s 1959 funeral. While greatly arguable who’s presence served as a greater impetus for the dissemination of rock as we know it today, Holly and the Everlys nonetheless go hand in glove with the title of essential early rock artists.
Remaining forever ahead of the curve, The Everly Brothers stayed successful in the wake of the British Invasion. Their vocal competence was a skill to be achieved, their proto country-rock sound a style only imitated. It’s safe to assume The Everly Brothers’ lingering presence in the Western musical hemisphere encouraged the likes of Gene Clark and Gram Parsons to develop their nascent genre-bending sounds to the full-fledged hybridity of country-rock and country-folk-rock. The Brother’s 1968 album Roots is often cited as the cornerstone of early country-rock. Phil and Don forever changed the face of popular music by crossing wires of the rigid markets of country and rock, and thereby creating a composite market that has been since wildly prosperous.
A fair-haired, wayfaring crooner, Phil Everly will forever remain paramount to mid-century Americana music. A heralded figure than a footnote, Phil ‘s innovations and risk-taking within popular music is insurmountably vital.
Born and raised on classic rock and oldies, Jake Tully consumed music voraciously growing up in Central California. He has his wonderful grandparents to thank for his love of music, as well as the amazing luck to have seen hundreds of concerts in his lifetime. He considers himself an eclectic consumer of all media, and further reading can be found at his blog.