Both brothers played acoustic guitar, with Don being regarded as a rhythmic innovator, but it was their intimate vocal blend that gave their records a distinctive and enduring quality. Don, who had the lower of the two voices, typically sang lead, with Phil singing a slightly higher but uncommonly close harmony part.
“It’s almost like we could read each other’s minds when we sang,” Mr. Everly told The Los Angeles Times shortly after his brother’s death.
The warmth of their vocals notwithstanding, the brothers’ relationship grew increasingly fraught as their career progressed. Their radio hits became scarcer as the ’60s wore on, and both men struggled with addiction. Don was hospitalized after taking an overdose of sleeping pills while the pair were on tour in Europe in 1962.
A decade later, after nearly 20 years on the road together, their longstanding tensions came to a head. Phil smashed his guitar and stormed offstage during a performance at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif., in 1973, leaving Don to finish the set and announce the duo’s breakup.
“The Everly Brothers died 10 years ago,” he told the audience, marking the end of an era.
Isaac Donald Everly was born on Feb. 1, 1937, in Brownie, Ky., not quite two years before his brother. Their mother, Margaret, and their father, Ike, a former coal miner, performed country music throughout the South and the Midwest before moving the family to Shenandoah, Iowa, in 1944. Shortly after their arrival there, “Little Donnie” and “Baby Boy Phil,” then ages 8 and 6, made their professional debut on a local radio station, KMA.
The family went on to perform on radio in Indiana and Tennessee before settling in Nashville in 1955, when the Everly brothers, now in their teens, were hired as songwriters by the publishing company Acuff-Rose. Two years later Wesley Rose of Acuff-Rose would help them secure a recording contract with Cadence Records, an independent label in New York, with which they had their initial success as artists.