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The Everly Brothers: 12 Essential Tracks

Look back at Phil Everly’s beautiful career in a playlist of his key work

Phil Everly on the ABC Television Network dance show 'American Bandstand.'


Phil Everly’s death from pulmonary disease yesterday confirmed the sad fact that the Everly Brothers will never sing again. Phil and Don Everly, born in 1939 and 1937, respectively, were the sons of country-western duo Ike and Margaret Everly, and began playing on country radio by the time they were seven. The Brothers recorded 15 Top Ten hits between 1957 and 1962, producing a mind-blowing blend of Appalachian harmonies and rock & roll that influenced the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and the Rolling Stones. We mined our playlists and consulted session legend Waddy Wachtel, who joined the Everly band in 1972, to create a career-spanning list of the band’s greatest recordings, from massive hits to under appreciated deep-cuts.

“Cathy’s Clown” (1961)

After a contract dispute, the band left Cadence Records and signed to Warner Bros. The first single was the self-written breakup anthem “Cathy’s Clown” (Phil supplied the all-time great chorus). It sold more than two million copies, spent five weeks at Number One and became their best-selling song ever. This live clip shows them performing the song on U.K. television backed by the Crickets.

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“Milk Train” (1968)

The band had a rough Sixties. The brothers got divorced from their wives and hooked on drugs – Don's doctor got him addicted on speed via a "vitamin treatment" and he attempted suicide before finally getting clean in 1966. They proved they hadn't lost a step with "Milk Train," a trippy country-rock gem released as a single in August 1968. 

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“Lord of the Manor” (1968)

Waddy Wachtel also points us to this B-side to "Milk Train,"  a propulsive, eerie track about a servant witnessing an affair between his boss and a maid. Says Wachtel, "This later tune by them is creepy and great, odd production, but beautiful."

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“Illinois” (1968)

The Everly Brothers jumped full-on into the late-Sixties country-rock revival with Roots, where the band recorded hits by Glen Campbell and Merle Haggard plus new songwriters like Randy Newman, who was working as an L.A.-based songwriter when he wrote this brilliant, romantic ode to the Prairie State. Gram Parsons became obsessed with the album and spent many late nights spinning it with buddy Keith Richards. 

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“I’m Tired of Singing My Song in Las Vegas” (1972)

The Everly Brothers enlisted a session band including Warren Zevon, Wachtel and John Sebastian for 1972's Stories We Could Tell, which featured Don Everly's twangy "I'm Tired of Singing My Song in Las Vegas." The Everlys had spent plenty of time playing oldies shows in Vegas by this point, and the track perfectly expressed the frustrations of being on the circuit. 

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“On the Wings of a Nightingale” (1984)

After a decade of inactivity, the band reunited to perform a comeback TV special in London before recording EB 84 with producer Dave Edmunds. He enlisted Everly fanatic Paul McCartney to write this strummy throwback rocker. "Dave said it was the hardest phone call he ever made, because McCartney is always being asked for something," Don Everly told RS in 1986. "Paul said if he could come up with anything, he'd give a call. Dave forgot about it, but about six weeks later, the phone rang and it was McCartney. He said. 'I Think I've got one." 

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