The finest from Phil and Don, from the early classics to the early '80s.
Few early rock 'n' roll acts enjoyed the broad mainstream appeal that the Everly Brothers did. Between 1957 and 1962, Phil and Don Everly placed 34 songs on the Billboard pop charts, nearly half of them reaching the top 10. The hits still sound as charming and full of youthful energy as they did back then, but a little listening beyond the classics shows that they made great records for years. For USA TODAY, Brian Mansfield compiles some of their finest work.
Bye Bye Love. Bye Bye Love 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 the song.) But the juxtaposition of heartbroken lyrics and carefree melody, combined with the brothers' singular two-part harmony, made them instant stars. It also started one of the great artist-songwriter partnerships in pop history. Boudleaux Bryant and/or his wife, Felice, 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.
APPRECIATION: Phil Everly lent perfect pitch to brothers' harmonies
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 must dream of replicating, also topped the pop, country and R&B charts.
Claudette. 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 was not only a great Everlys track, it also earned Orbison renewed interest from his record label at the time, Sun Records, while simultaneously putting him on Nashville's radar.
Bird Dog. 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 popular dog puppet named Farfel. He got overruled, and Bird Dog became the Everlys' third No. 1 hit.
Devoted to You. DJs flipped Bird Dog and found this lovely Boudleaux Bryant love song in the vein of All I Have to Do Is Dream.
I'm Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail. While Bird Dog and Devoted to You were climbing the charts, Phil and Don were going back to their roots, cutting an album of old folk and pop tunes called Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. The set included this heart-tugger about a woman pleading for her son's release on the fifth anniversary of his father's death.
('Til) I Kissed You. Sonny Curtis and Jerry Allison from Buddy Holly's backing band, The Crickets, played on this Don Everly composition.
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.
Cathy's Clown. 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 both the pop and R&B charts.
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.
Walk Right Back. Another Buddy Holly-Everlys connection. Holly guitarist Curtis wrote this buoyantly optimistic post-breakup song, a No. 7 hit in 1961.
Stick With Me, Baby. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss revived this Mel Tillis-written number for their 2007 Raising Sand album. The Everlys' original didn't do particularly well on the charts, peaking at No. 41 as the B-side of their remake of the Bing Crosby hit Temptation in 1961, but it's still got that Everly magic. And some great guitar work, too.
Crying In the Rain. A masterwork of self-pity, written by Howard Greenfield and Carole King.
Gone, Gone, Gone. The Everlys' big hits stopped in 1962 with That's Old Fashioned (That's the Way Love Should Be), soon replaced by U.K. acts who'd grown up trying to replicate their sound. Gone, Gone, Gone got them back to the top 40 in 1964 (barely). Had they been new and English when they released this, it would be considered a British Invasion classic.
Bowling Green. The duo's last top 40 pop hit sounds a bit British, a bit Californian, but all Everly.
Who's Gonna Keep Me Warm. Phil Everly placed three solo singles on the country charts in the early '80s. It's overproduced in the way only middle-of-the-road early-'80s pop can be, with strings and synths and lots of background singers in the mix. But there's no mistaking that tenor voice.
The Price of Love. When Phil and Don reunited (a decade after famously breaking up on stage) for a concert at London's Royal Albert Hall in September 1983, they opened with this rocker, a fan favorite from their 1966 In Our Image album.
On the Wings of a Nightingale. The Albert Hall show led to a reunion album, EB '84, which featured production by Dave Edmunds and this lead single by Paul McCartney as its calling cards.
Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the ventriloquist considered for Bird Dog.