Phil Everly, whose hits with his older brother, Don, as the Everly Brothers carried the close fraternal harmonies of country tradition into pioneering rock ’n’ roll, died Jan. 4, in Burbank, Calif. He was 74.
His son Jason said the cause of death was complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
With songs such as 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 hit-makers 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 and Roll Hall of Fame in its first year, 1986.
The Everlys brought tradition, not rebellion, to their rock ’n’ roll. Their pop songs reached teenagers with Appalachian harmonies rooted in gospel and bluegrass. Their first full-length album, The Everly Brothers in 1958, held their first hits, but the follow-up that same year, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, was a quiet collection of traditional and traditional-sounding songs.
They often sang in tandem, with Phil Everly on the higher note and the brothers’ two voices virtually inseparable. That sound was part of a long lineage of country “brother acts” such as the Delmore Brothers and the Monroe Brothers. In an interview in November, Phil Everly said: “We’d grown up together, so we’d pronounce the words the same, with the same accent. All of that comes into play when you’re singing in harmony.”
Paul Simon, whose song Graceland includes vocals by Phil and Don Everly, said in an e-mail after Phil’s death that “Phil and Don were the most beautiful sounding duo I ever heard. Both voices pristine and soulful. The Everlys were there at the crossroads of country and R&B. They witnessed and were part of the birth of rock and roll.”
The Everly Brothers’ music grew out of a childhood spent singing. Phillip 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 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 radio station KMA – and in 1945, “Little Donnie” and 6-year-old “Baby Boy Phil” started harmonizing with their parents on the air. They went to school after they performed.
The Everly family moved on to radio shows in Indiana and Tennessee. In 1955, the teenage brothers settled in Nashville, where they were hired as songwriters before starting the Everly Brothers’ recording career.
They had a blockbuster in 1957: Bye Bye Love, a song written by the husband-and-wife team Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. It reached No. 1 on the country chart, No. 2 on the pop chart and No. 5 on the rhythm and blues chart, selling more than a million copies. They followed it with another Bryants song, Wake Up Little Susie, that was a No. 1 pop hit and another million-seller.
For the next few years, they were rarely without a Top 10 pop hit. Among them were All I Have to Do Is Dream in 1957, Bird Dog and Devoted to You in 1958, (Till) I Kissed You in 1959, and, in 1960, Let It Be Me, Cathy’s Clown (written by Don and Phil Everly) and When Will I Be Loved.
Their hit-making streak ended in the United States in the early 1960s, lasting slightly longer in Britain. But they 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.
But the brothers were growing estranged. In 1973, at a concert in California, Phil smashed his guitar and walked offstage, and Don announced the duo’s breakup. They recorded solo albums for the next decade before reuniting in 1983, with a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London that was filmed as a documentary. They returned to the studio for a 1984 album, EB84, that was produced by the British pub-rocker Dave Edmunds and included a song written for the Everlys by Paul McCartney; they made two more studio albums in the 1980s.
Among musicians, the Everlys had generations of admirers. The Beatles included Everly Brothers songs in their live sets and modelled the vocal harmonies of Please Please Me on Cathy’s Clown. The Beach Boys recorded the Everlys’ song Devoted to You. Ms. Ronstadt had a Top 10 hit with When Will I Be Loved in 1975. On his four-album set These Days in 2006, country songwriter Vince Gill recorded a duet with Phil Everly, Sweet Little Corinna.
Simon and Garfunkel included Bye Bye Love on their Bridge Over Troubled Water album, and years later brought together the Everly Brothers to be their opening act for their 2003 “Old Friends” tour.
“I loved them both,” Mr. Simon wrote in his e-mail. “Phil was outgoing, gregarious and very funny. Don is quiet and introspective. When Simon and Garfunkel toured with the Everlys in 2003, Art and I would take the opportunity to learn about the roots of rock and roll from these two great historians. It was a pleasure to spend time in their company.”
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.
In 2013, younger musicians released two albums of Everly Brothers songs: What the Brothers Sang by Dawn McCarthy and Bonnie Prince Billy (the indie rocker Will Oldham), and Foreverly by Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, a remake of every song on Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.
“The Everly Brothers go way back far as I can remember hearing music. Those harmonies live on forever,” Mr. Armstrong posted on Twitter.
Phil Everly leaves his brother, and their mother, Margaret Everly; his wife, Patti; his sons, Jason and Chris; and two granddaughters.
“I always thought I’d be the one to go first,” Don Everly wrote in a statement to the Associated Press. “The world might be mourning an Everly Brother, but I’m mourning my brother Phil.”