Tuesday, May 22, 2012


About a year ago, I blogged about Dion's "Two Ton Feather" and mentioned that out of all the big 1950s artists whose career waned in the 1960s, Dion and The Everly Brothers made the most interesting records after their hit-making days were over - mainly because they did their best to keep up with changing trends and styles, and were equal to the task.

"The Price Of Love", the record featured here, was a bona fide Number Two hit in the UK - right up there with The Beatles, Stones, all the heavy UK hitters - in the summer of '65. It was also a hit for the Status Quo in 1969 and later versions were also recorded by Bryan Ferry and The Sinners. Of COURSE it flopped in the States.

But then again, the United Kingdom has always been a more welcoming country to the Everlys. Their influence in England is boundless - just listen to records by The Beatles, The Hollies, Peter and Gordon, Chad and Jeremy, The Searchers, etc. and you'll hear The Everlys. In fact, you could say that the entire British Invasion was fueled in part by old Everly Brothers 45s. The Everlys' comeback concert in 1983 tellingly took place in the UK's Royal Albert Hall - NOT in America. Their last decent-sized hit, "On The Wings Of A Nightingale", was written by some Liverpudlian dude named Paul McCartney (and their last decent hit before that one, 1967's "Bowling Green", was written by Terry Slater, another Englishman). Hell, in 1960, when Warner Bros. Records decided to expand their operations to across the pond, guess what was the very first 45 Warners ever released in England? "Cathy's Clown" by The Everly Brothers (catalog number WB 1).

Don't get me wrong - I'm NOT saying that this record only became a hit because of England's love for the Everly Brothers. Listen to the sound clip below; wicked guitar lick, country-fried harmonica, and a POUNDING backbeat set up the one-of-a-kind Everly harmonies to killer effect. These guys WERE NOT going through the motions; they were hip to what was happening in music and made their contribution to the sounds of '65.

History Lesson Time: Don Everly (b. Isaac Donald Everly, February 1, 1937)  and Phillip Everly (b. January 19, 1939) are the sons of Ike Everly, a musician himself (interesting side note here: they are also cousins of actor James Best, best known as Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes Of Hazzard). Originally from Kentucky, the Everly family moved to Shenandoah, Iowa in the 1940s where they had their own radio program on KMA and KFNF radio (in fact, bits of the radio program can be heard on the Everlys' groundbreaking 1968 LP Roots). As the boys grew older, Ike began giving them their own spot on the radio show. Family friend Chet Atkins took an interest in the boys, and got them their first record deal with Columbia in 1956. After one failed single ("Keep A' Lovin' Me"), Columbia lost interest and Chet got the duo signed - as songwriters - to Acuff-Rose Music, Nashville's biggest publishing company. It was Wesley Rose (the "Rose" in Acuff-Rose) who introduced the Everlys to Archie Bleyer of Cadence Records. They signed with Cadence in early 1957, and their first record for the company, "Bye Bye Love", became a million-seller.

After three years of nonstop hits with Cadence, the brothers signed a ten-year, multi-million dollar contract with the nearly brand-new Warner Bros. Records (in fact, they were the label's first major rock and roll act). They started off 1960 with their biggest hit, "Cathy's Clown", they were given a whirlwind promotional push (appearing in many publicity photos with film and TV stars from the Warners lot), and the hits just kept on coming. For a while, anyway.

The trouble started in 1961. The Everlys had worked up a rockin' version of the standard "Temptation" and had wanted to release it as a single, but Wesley Rose objected - because it wasn't an Acuff-Rose copyright. The brothers ended up dumping Rose as their manager, and in retaliation Rose denied the Everlys access to any songs from Acuff-Rose songwriters like Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, who had written most of the Everlys' hits up to that point, and Don and Phil themselves, who were still contracted as songwriters to Acuff-Rose. So the Everlys were forced to use outside writers for his such as "Crying In The Rain" and "That's Old Fashioned", and were also reduced to recording versions of standards (like "Don't Blame Me" and the entire Both Sides Of An Evening LP). A six-month stint in the Marines starting in late 1961 didn't help matters much, interrupting their touring schedule and keeping them out of the spotlight (though they did make an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in their Marine dress uniforms).

To make matters worse, the brothers were having personal troubles - between the all-night recording sessions, the tours, the television appearances, Don's newly-formed record label (Calliope Records) and the added pressure of coming up with hit singles without their best source of material, Don and Phil were just plain tired. So they started seeing a doctor for their fatigue, but the guy was a quack. He prescribed "vitamins" to help the Everlys get through a 1962 tour of Great Britain - they turned out to be amphetamines, and Don got hooked. He overdosed twice on that tour, and had to be taken home before it ended, leaving Phil to go it alone (with their guitarist Joey Paige providing the harmony to Phil's voice). Don also became addicted to Ritalin, prescribed for his "nervousness". The brothers also started to have differing opinions about everything - by 1964, the brothers' mutual animosity had become so great that they had separate managers, agents and lawyers. Doing business with them became a nightmare - you had to call Don's people and Phil's people separately, make sure each brother was satisfied with the pay grade, deal with each brother's contracts, then hope that one camp didn't talk to the other brother's camp and find out there was a disparity. Otherwise the process would begin all over again.

Clearly, this was an unhealthy situation, but the brothers soldiered on. From the end of 1962 (when "Don't Ask Me To Be Friends" hit #48) until early 1970, the brothers released 27 singles and a dozen LPs for Warner Bros. Only three of the singles and one of the LPs charted, despite great tracks like "It's All Over" (which later became a hit for The Casinos), "Man With Money" (later recorded by The Who and A Wild Uncertainty) and the track featured here. They also worked with The Hollies (on the LP Two Yanks In England), The Beau Brummels' Ron Elliot, and hired some guy named Warren Zevon to be their bandleader on the road.

After the Warners contract ran out in 1970, the Everlys could have respectably called it quits, but for some reason they didn't - instead, they took over their friend Johnny Cash's TV show as a summer replacement, then signed another recording contract with RCA in 1971. They recorded two LPs for RCA - Stories We Could Tell (an all-star affair featuring Graham Nash, Ry Cooder, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, John Sebastian, Warren Zevon, Chris Ethridge of the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Byrds David Crosby and Clarence White) and Pass The Chicken And Listen (with Chet Atkins and other Nashville session cats). But then came July 14, 1973, when the brothers finally broke up the act - publicly.

At Knotts Berry Farm in Los Angeles, the Everlys were halfway through the second of three sets that evening. Don's performance indicated that he really didn't want to be there that night, singing old Everly Brothers hits for the millionth time. Entertainment manager Bill Hollinghead, seeing this (and not quite sure that Don wasn't high or drunk), stopped the show in the middle of the second set. Phil finally had enough. Phil stopped singing, smashed his guitar to smithereens, and walked off stage, leaving Don by himself. For the third set, Don came out alone, and explained the situation to the audience ("the Everly Brothers died 10 years ago....").

Phil and Don quickly put out solo records (Phil's first solo LP, Star Spangled Springer, was produced by Duane Eddy and featured the original version of "The Air That I Breathe", which later became a hit for The Hollies), but neither of them found much success as solo acts.

Finally, in 1983, after ten years of not speaking to each other, the brothers finally settled their differences and staged a reunion concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. The first song played that night? "The Price Of Love".

The Everly Brothers - The Price Of Love (Warner Bros. 5628) - 1965

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


You ever notice how some bands are great on records and are HORRID live? Or you go see a band that does such a KILLER live show that you buy their CD and bring it home and the second the sound comes out of your speakers you immediately regret it? Happens all the time, doesn't it?

With the advent of YouTube, anyone can stream almost ANY performance by any band, especially if they appeared on TV. Yours truly has spent many, MANY hours looking at old footage by 60s artists on shows like Beat Club, Shivaree, Hullaballoo, Shindig, The!!!!! Beat, Ready Steady Go! and, of course, the old Ed Sullivan shows. Some groups come off really well live (The Hollies, The Seekers, The Who, and - surprisingly enough - The Pretty Things) and some, not so well (The Byrds, Led Zeppelin).

The Rascals are a very interesting case. I've owned their records all my life, and truly loved their records all my life. But since I saw (and heard) them on YouTube, the records pale in comparison - even though they're still great.

However, there was one Rascals record I never thought was all that wonderful - "Come On Up". It was one of the few tracks on their greatest hits LP that I'd always skip over. Compared to the soulful energy of their other 45s, "Come On Up", at least to my ears, is just plain sludgy. Of course, then I saw this YouTube video, and I realized that the song must have been a real rave-up in concert. But the record, to say the least, leaves me cold to this day.

Enter Thee Impalas. A Chicano soul/rock group from East L. A., they recorded two great singles for the Whittier label (home of Thee Midniters, the most popular Chicano band of all time). The first was a remake of the Barbara Mason soul standard, "Yes, I'm Ready", but for their second single, they must have consciously made up their minds to blow the doors off of the Rascals' 45, because it does. They took the Rascals' arrangement and stepped it up a few notches (much like The Rascals themselves did with "Good Lovin'", which The Olympics had the original hit with in 1965).

By the way, if you're interested in the world of Chicano Soul, here's a great website.

Thee Impalas - Come On Up (Whittier 506) - 1967