"We give each other a lot of space," Don Everly told The Times in 1999 when they played a couple of shows in the Southland. "We say hello, we sometimes have a meal together.... Everything is different about us, except when we sing together. I'm a liberal Democrat, he's pretty conservative."
The family moved through the South and Midwest, landing radio shows in different cities until the rise of television began to supplant radio as the preferred medium for entertainment.
The brothers credited Ike with teaching them all they knew about music. Ike Everly was an accomplished guitarist who reportedly influenced country guitar legends, including Merle Travis and Chet Atkins, and facilitated his sons' recording career by introducing them to famed guitarist and talent scout Atkins when they were in their early teens.
Atkins connected them with Wesley Rose of Nashville's famed Acuff-Rose Publishing, and Rose offered to get them a recording contract if they would sign to Acuff-Rose as songwriters. Rose introduced them to Archie Bleyer, who signed them to his New York-based Cadence Records label, and it wasn't long before the hits began to flow.
"The Everlys took the country brother duet tradition one step farther," historian Colin Escott wrote in the 2012 second edition of the Encyclopedia of Country Music. "They added Bo Diddley riffs, teenage anxieties and sharkskin suits, but — for all that — the core of their sound remained country brother harmony."
A year after the family moved from Knoxville, Tenn., to Nashville in 1955, the Everly Brothers rocketed to No. 2 on the pop charts with "Bye Bye Love," a song by Nashville husband-wife songwriting team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, the first of many songs by the Bryants that the Everlys would record, including "Wake Up Little Susie," "Bird Dog," "Problems" and "All I Have to Do Is Dream."
Those songs are now perceived as remnants of a more innocent age, but "Wake Up Little Susie" was banned from many radio stations because its story of two teenagers being out together into the wee hours was considered too racy.
"It didn't even enter our minds that anybody could object to it," Phil recalled in 1984. "But if we'd called a press conference to deny it, nobody would have shown up. They were all off listening to big bands."
Both Everly siblings also knew a thing or two about songwriting, with Phil contributing "When Will I Be Loved," and Don writing "('Til) I Kissed You," "Cathy's Clown" and "So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)."
In 1960, the Everlys moved from Cadence to the 2-year-old Warner Bros. Records label for what was widely reported to be one of the most lucrative contracts in popular music. Without missing a beat, they delivered their first hit for Warner Bros. with "Cathy's Clown," which spent five weeks at No. 1, and at that point they were more popular than Elvis Presley, who'd enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Despite their personal differences, the musical magic that earned them an inaugural spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame still surfaced when they sang together.
"That's the one part where being brothers makes a difference," Don said in 1999. "It's just instinct. That's the charm of what the Everly Brothers are: two guys singing as one. I want people to leave there thinking 'Whoa, it's still happening, it's still good.'"
In addition to his wife, brother and mother, Everly is survived by sons Jason and Chris, and two granddaughters.
Funeral services will be private.