Consisting of brothers Isaac Donald “Don” Everly and Phillip “Phil” Everly, the Everly Brothers first began singing with their mother and father as part of The Everly Family in the 1940s. In the mid-50s, they began writing and recording independently of their family, earning their first hit song in 1957 with Bye Bye Love. After releasing a string of huge hits in the late 1950s, their success (and output) tailed off in the early 1960s, although they continued performing together until 1973. In 1983, they reunited, coming together for occasional reunions until Phil’s death in 2014. Widely acknowledged as the greatest close-harmony singers of all time, their influence on generations of artists is hard to overestimate. Here, we look back on their extraordinary career with our selection of the 10 best Everly Brothers songs of all time.
10. So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)
Since the Everly Brothers recorded So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad) in 1960, many, many artists have covered it, including The Hombres, Dillard and Clarke, Brian Hyland, Connie Smith, Hank Williams Jr., and Emmylou Harris. Some even scored big hits with it. Suffice to say, none of them have ever matched up to the heartbreaking delivery and beautiful harmonies of the original. Released in August 1960, it was a top ten hit in numerous countries, including the US, where it peaked at No. 7, and the UK, where it climbed to No. 4.
Temptation was written by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown. It was first performed by Bing Crosby, who reached the No. 3 spot with it in 1933. Three decades later, the Everly Brothers reimagined it for a new generation with their own interpretation. It was a major success, peaking at No. 1 in the UK and No. 27 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
8. Take a Message to Mary
As Rolling Stone explains, Take a Message to Mary is a sad ballad about a frontier lad turned bad who gets separated from his lover after being thrown in jail for shooting a man. Not wanting his love to suffer, he asks a friend to deliver her a message to say he’s gone to see the world, so she should cancel the wedding and find someone else. An underrated gem… even if they did have to resort to tapping a screwdriver against a coke bottle for the percussion.
7. Walk Right Back
As thisisdig.com explains, Walk Right Back was written by guitarist Sonny Curtis, who composed the song on a boring Sunday afternoon when he was undergoing basic training. Coincidentally, the Everly Brothers released their version on the same day that Curtis landed in France to begin his duties overseas. “They had just gotten signed to Warner Bros. I got Don on the phone. Phil came down, and they worked out that great harmony,” Curtis later recalled. Released in 1961, it went to No. 7 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and spent 3 weeks at the top of the UK Singles Chart.
6. (Till) I Kissed You
As MSN notes, (Till) I Kissed You holds the distinction of being the first Everly Brothers song not written by the legendary Bryant songwriting team to reach the top 10 in the U.S. charts. Written by Don Everly, it’s a beautiful thing, with heavenly harmonies, thrumming guitars, and lyrics that perfectly capture the innocence of young love. Don later revealed that he wrote the song for a girl named Lilian that he met in Australia and who proved “very, very inspirational.” Don was married at the time, so couldn’t do very much other than write a song for her. Based on the results, it was probably enough.
5. Let It Be Me
In 1959, the Everly Brothers released Let It Be Me, an English-language version of Gilbert Bécaud’s 1955 French hit, Je t’appartiens. It was an international hit, reaching No.13 in the UK, No. 7 in the US, No. 8 in Canada, and No. 24 in Australia. Since then, the harmony arrangements utilized by the group have inspired covers by countless artists, including Sonny & Cher, Nancy Sinatra, Tom Jones, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, and Willie Nelson.
4. Wake Up Little Susie
Rolling Stone magazine included Wake Up Little Susie in its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and for very good reason. It’s a story about a teenage couple who fall asleep in front of a boring film, only to wake up at 4 am and immediately fly into a panic about how people will react to them being out all night. It was a little bit risqué for the times, but the group’s honied harmonies quickly smoothed over any offense. It was a huge hit for the brothers, reaching No. 1 on the Canadian charts, No. 3 in Australia, and No. 2 in the U.K.
3. Cathy’s Clown
When the Everly Brothers signed to Warners in 1960, they were handed a million-dollar contract. If anyone at the label had any doubts about whether they were worth the money, they were quickly eased when the group’s first single with Warners flew straight to No. 1. Written by Don Everly and boasting the group’s typically flawless vocals, it later served as an influence on the vocal arrangement of the Beatles’ Please, Please Me.
2. Bye Bye Love
Just missing out on a position at the top of our list is Buy Buy Love. Unbelievably, over 300 artists turned their nose up at the song before it finally landed in the Everly Brothers’ laps. In a way, it was fortunate they did, as very few acts could have given the song the treatment it deserved quite so well as the brothers. Released in 1957, it was an early hit for the group, taking them to No. 2 on the US Billboard Pop charts and No. 1 on the Cash Box Best Selling Record charts.
1. All I Have To Do Is Dream
In at No. 1 is All I Have To Do Is Dream. Written, as so many of their early songs were, by Boudleaux Bryant of the husband-and-wife songwriting team Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, it’s nothing short of heavenly, with the brothers’ irresistible harmonies intertwining seamlessly with Chet Atkins’ tremolo guitar. “Harmony signing is the ultimate love,” Phil Everly once said. On the basis of this, no one could disagree. Released in 1958, it became the only song in history to ever be at No. 1 on all of the Billboard singles charts at the same time.