Obituary: Don Everly, musician

Don Everly, who has died at 84, was one-half of the pioneering Everly Brothers, whose harmonising country rock hits helped to define the first generation of rock and roll music.

Phil, left, and Don Everly on stage in 1964.

Don Everly, who has died at 84, was one-half of the pioneering Everly Brothers, whose harmonising country rock hits helped to define the first generation of rock and roll music.

In the late 1950s and 1960s, he and his brother Phil drew upon their rural roots with their strummed guitars and high, yearning harmonies, while their poignant songs – many by the husband and wife songwriting team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant – embodied teenage restlessness and energy.

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Their 19 top 40 hits included Bye Bye Love, Let It Be Me, All I Have To Do Is Dream and Wake Up Little Susie, and performers from The Beatles to Simon and Garfunkel cited them as key influences.

“The Everly Brothers are integral to the fabric of American music,” said their contemporary, Jerry Lee Lewis.

Their songs appealed to the post-war generation of baby boomers, and their deceptively simple harmonies hid greater meaning among the lighter pop fare of the era.

The two broke up amid quarrelling in 1973 after 16 years of hits, then reunited in 1983, “sealing it with a hug”, as Phil Everly put it.

Although their number of hit records declined in the late 1980s, they had successful concert tours in the US and Europe.

They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1986, the same year they had a hit pop-country record, Born Yesterday.

Two years earlier, they had success with the up-tempo ballad, On The Wings Of A Nightingale, written by Paul McCartney.

Don Everly was born in Brownie, Kentucky, to Ike and Margaret Everly, who were folk and country music singers.

Phil was born two years later in Chicago, where the Everlys had moved when Ike grew tired of working in the coal mines.

The brothers began singing country music in 1945 on their family’s radio show in Iowa. But it was when they moved to Nashville that their career took off, and they signed a recording contract with New York-based Cadence Records.

Their breakup came dramatically during a concert at Knott’s Berry Farm in California. Phil threw his guitar down and walked off, prompting Don to tell the crowd: “The Everly Brothers died 10 years ago.”

The disputes between the brothers even went to court, when Don sued the Phil’s heirs in 2017 over the copyright to three of their songs, including Cathy’s Clown.

Don also felt betrayed when, at the height of their estrangement, Phil released a record with Cliff Richard, She Means Nothing to Me, on which Cliff supplied Don’s harmonies.

But after Phil’s death in 2014, at 74, Don said that he felt a spiritual message from his brother before he died.

He is survived by his fourth wife, Adela, who was 32 years his junior, and by his four children and his mother.