An Evening with Don Everly
February 1, 1937 – August 21, 2021
It is truly the end of an era with the passing of the talented, charming and iconic Don Everly. The influence The Everly Brothers have had on so many musicians and genres of music is immeasurable. Don and his brother, Phil, are credited with two songs in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry; “Cathy’s Clown“ inducted in 2013, and their contribution to Paul Simon’s “Graceland” inducted in 2006.
I met Don Everly through Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas. In addition to being my closest friend and confidant for over 30 years, Michelle was a bridesmaid in my wedding, and we celebrate important milestones in our lives including new jobs, break-ups, bridal showers, baby showers and many birthday celebrations. Early in our friendship, we discovered our shared love of travel. We make it a point to schedule at least one trip a year, and during these adventures, it is not uncommon for Michelle to call an “old friend” who happens to live in our destination city. You never know who you will meet when hanging out with Mama Michelle.
It was on a trip to Nashville, in January 2018, that we shared an early 81st birthday celebration with Don Everly, his wife, Adela, and her twin sister, Adelaidia Garza.
Don lived in Nashville with the two sisters, and the three were inseparable. He didn’t go out much, no longer toured and rarely gave interviews. His health was just starting to decline so it really was an extra special evening for all of us.
There was a lot of laughing at the table that night, and much discussion about how musicians inspire each other. He was humble about his influence on the Beatles and Paul Simon, but very vocal about his love for Bo Diddley. He said that Bo’s music changed him completely.
Early on, he and Phil were being pushed down a road of country music in the vein of Hank Williams, but Don wanted to be Bo Diddley. It was Diddley’s jarring rhythm guitar and arrangements that became the inspiration for “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Cathy’s Clown,” and many more of The Everly Brothers’ beloved songs. Don’s wife was quick to remind us that those songs were from Don’s heart and that his success belongs to him.
He didn’t talk much about Phil, but did say that growing up their mother only bought one birthday cake a year because the three of them shared birthdays so close together: Phil on January 19, their Mother also in January (born in 1919 and still alive today) and Don on February 1. For his 81st birthday and as a nice memory, the five of us shared one giant piece of birthday cake and Don joined us in singing “Happy Birthday.”
After getting the news about his passing, I found myself rereading the essay in the National Recording Registry about “Cathy’s Clown.” Daniel Levitin provides a wonderful reminder of the huge mark that The Everly Brothers left in music and their undeniable influence on so much of the music we enjoy today.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Library of Congress.