The Everly Brothers, “They’re Off And Rolling” Says Archie

Lenny Kaye

By Lenny Kaye

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

With their high pompadours, chiseled lookalike features and unerring, keening harmonies, the Everly Brothers were second only to Elvis in the heart-throbbing adolescent whirlwind that swept over the pop Top 40 in the mid-1950s. Their phenomenal rise, spurred by the #2 hit of "Bye Bye Love" in the summer of 1957, followed only a few short months later by the #1 smash of "Wake Up Little Susie," was heralded by ringing acoustic guitars centered on an open G chord, crisp songs written by Boudealeaux Bryant, joined sometimes by his wife Felice, and recorded under the supervision of Nashville super-picker Chet Atkins.

The sterling debut of two of the most important — and fun — early rock & roll stars.

Evolving from a country family act headed by their parents, Ike and Margaret, the Kentucky-born siblings had been performing since they were not much bigger than the Gibson flattop that would become their namesake. Don was older by two years, and after an apprenticeship over the radio with their folks, the Kentucky-born siblings headed to Nashville. Chet Atkins mentored them, introducing the duo to Wesley Rose, who headed a publishing company that had the Bryants as writers. After a couple of unmemorable singles for Columbia, Wesley took them over to Archie Bleyer, whose New York-based Cadence Records had just struck a deal with Rose to promote c&w acts.

"They're Off And Rolling" Says Archie

The Everly Brothers

The Archie-of-the-title was off and rolling himself, an orchestra leader on television with Arthur Godfrey, the genial ukulele player who had one of the first variety shows on the tube. Bleyer had formed a record company to promote that show's leading male singer, Julius LaRosa, giving him his first taste of hit, "Anywhere I Wander," and the Godfrey show also found him a second, the unlikely barbershop harmonizings of the Chordettes '"Mr. Sandman." In 1955, he also mined television for Bill Hayes '"Ballad of Davy Crockett," which showed he understood the impact of a fad. He must've been aware of rock and roll, which then was regarded as another teen fashion likely to disappear as quickly as it had arrived, and though he'd never met the Everlys before signing them, trusted Rose's acumen.

The cover of their first album (an oddity in a time when an LP was reserved for jazz or classical music) shows them astride motorcycles, guitars slung over shoulders, the very picture of modern troubadours. Alongside the Everlys 'debut hits are such stand-outs as "Should We Tell Him," displaying the hillside harmonies of the duo in first-and-third lockstep, and the yearning waltz of "I Wonder If I Care as Much," showcasing the vulnerability and aching purity that is the Everlys 'trademark.