“Our reputation is shot” sing Don and the late Phil Everly on the first track here, ‘Wake Up Little Suzie’, the follow-up to their breakthrough hit ‘Bye Bye Love’, but it was far from the truth; the duo were in the early stages of a fabulous career. The brothers’ success was based not on versions of R&B songs, but on original material and their instantly recognisable vocal harmonies. Both singing in quite high registers, their voices were perfect for radio. They spawned many imitators over the years, but no-one ever came close to the magic they generated.
In 1956 they had linked with their manager Wesley Rose who negotiated them a deal with successful independent Cadence Records. It’s from their time at Cadence this collection is taken. Rose had a stake in the Acuff-Rose publishing house, whose roster included husband and wife team Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, the writers of half the songs on this 18-track compilation. And what songs they were. In addition to those first two hits, the Bryants also provided classics such as ‘Poor Jenny’, ‘Bird Dog’, ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ and ‘Take A Message To Mary’. The brothers were no writing slouches either; Don penned ‘(‘Til) I Kissed You’, and Phil ‘When Will I Be Loved’.
Top Nashville players such as Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer helped lift the songs to world beaters. Listen for instance to the countrified licks at the end of ‘Rip It Up’ and the guitar on ‘When Will I Be Loved’. The brothers grew up with country music, so it’s no wonder they should sound so at home with such great musicians.
The Everlys recorded just 38 songs during their time with Cadence. Their hit strike rate was fabulous, with virtually every single becoming an absolute classic hit, enjoyed as much today as they were then.