1. Life & Culture

Phil Everly, half of pioneer rock duo, dies at 74

Published Jan. 4, 2014

Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers, whose hits with his older brother, Don Everly, carried the close fraternal harmonies of country tradition into pioneering rock 'n' roll, died Friday, according to the group's official website.

He died in a hospital in Burbank, near his home in Southern California, of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease after lifelong smoking, according to reports from the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press. He was 74.

With songs like Wake Up Little Susie, Bye Bye Love, Cathy's Clown, All I Have to Do Is Dream and When Will I Be Loved?, which was written by Phil Everly, the brothers were consistent hitmakers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They won over country, pop and even R&B listeners with a combination of clean-cut vocals and the rockabilly strum and twang of their guitars.

They were also models for the next generations of rock vocal harmonies for the Beatles, Linda Ronstadt, Simon and Garfunkel, and many others who recorded their songs and tried to emulate their precise, ringing vocal alchemy. The Everly Brothers were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in its first year, 1986.

The Everly Brothers' music grew out of a childhood spent singing. Phil Everly was born in Chicago on Jan. 19, 1939, the son of a Kentucky coal miner turned musician, Ike Everly, and his wife, Margaret. The family had left Kentucky, where Don Everly was born in 1937, for musical opportunities in Chicago. They soon moved on to Iowa, where Ike Everly found steady work playing country music on live radio. In Shenandoah, Iowa, Ike Everly got his own show -- at 6 a.m. on the radio station KMA -- and in 1945, "Little Donnie" and the 6-year-old "Baby Boy Phil" started harmonizing with their parents on the air.

Their hitmaking streak ended in the United States in the early 1960s, lasting slightly longer in Britain. But the Everlys continued to tour and make albums, notably the 1968 Roots, a thoughtful foray into country-rock that included a snippet of a 1952 Everly Family radio show. They had a summer variety series on CBS in 1970.

The Everly Brothers played their last headlining tour in 2005 in Britain. They were also heard together on a 2010 album by Don's son, Edan Everly, in a dark song about child stardom called Old Hollywood.

Phil Everly is survived by his brother and by their mother, Margaret Everly; his wife, Patti; his sons, Jason and Chris, and two granddaughters.