This is the second of two CDs that I chose in place of one Billy Idol Christmas CD (see yesterday's post for more details).
I was quite astonished when I found this among the bargain bin racks at the Virgin Megastore - $7.00!
I was also surprised like crazy - I never knew the Everly Brothers recorded a Christmas album (I know... I know...). It's little surprises like this that rev up my adrenaline at Christmas.
Phil and Don Everly hailed from Kentucky and were excellent musicians even before getting into the music business. When they began moving through the ranks in the late 1950s, rock-n-roll acts like Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chuck Berry were the top draws.
The duo signed with Cadence Records in 1956. Their first single ("Keep A' Lovin' Me") was produced by Chet Atkins and was immediately flopped. They returned to the studio and found a song that had been kicked around Nashville many times. 30 artists passed on the tune, including Elvis.
"Bye Bye Love" was an absolute smash, reaching #1 on the country chart, #2 on the pop chart, and #5 on the R&B chart! The tight harmonies of the brothers backed by their own guitar playing made everyone sit up and take notice.
What followed next was a string of hits that hold up even today: "Wake Up Little Susie", "All I Have To Do Is Dream", "Devoted To You", "Bird Dog", "Problems", and "'Til I Kissed You".
Around this time (1957-1959), rock-n-roll was going through some early growing pains. Elvis went into the army, Little Richard gave up rock for religion, Chuck Berry went to prison, Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13-yr old cousin, Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens took a fateful plane ride.
Enter the teen idol years. With the likes of Frankie Avalon, Fabian, and Pat Boone now leading the way (most of which couldn't sing or play instruments on their own), The Everly Brothers were one of the few acts to emerge from this period intact.
That is until Uncle Sam called. In 1960, they switched from Cadence to Warner Brothers and had their last huge #1 hit - "Cathy's Clown". At the end of 1961, Phil and Don couldn't put off their military commitment. Both joined the U.S. Marines and served until 1962.
This Christmas album was released by Warner Brothers back in 1962 (both in mono & stereo). According to the liner notes, Phil and Don travelled to Boys Town, Nebraska where The Boys Town Choir helped contribute to the album.
They share the spotlight alone on two songs ("Away In A Manger", "Angels From The Realm Of Glory"). The liner notes also mention Don sings solo on "What Child Is This?" while Phil solos on "O Little Town Of Bethlehem".
In many of the songs here, both the brothers sings their trademark close harmonies to a T. It's a treat to hear those familiar voices sings "Silent Night" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" but the album as a whole is a disappointment.
Nowhere on the album can their wonderful guitar sound be heard (the organ and boys choir really weighs them down at points) and the song selection is strictly traditional Christmas carols.
I would give anything to hear what Phil and Don would have done with "White Christmas", "Jingle Bell Rock", or even better an original Everly Brothers song or songs. I was hoping at some point, any point they would cut loose and let her fly. No such luck.
Despite the fact their time on the popular music scene had passed, for the next ten years (1963-1973) the brothers would continue to record albums and release singles. Unlike many of their contemporaries, they continued to expand their musical horizons and experiement with new songs and sounds. Their 1966 album "Two Yanks In England" is an underrated, underappreciated album that really deserves more attention than it gets.
In 1972, they released the album "Stories We Can Tell", featuring many revealing songs including "Green River", "I'm Tired Of Singing My Song In Las Vegas" (how personal can you get?), and a Christmas song that's long flew under the radar screen: "Christmas Eve Can Kill You". You can still get this album to hear this song (or find Rhino Records "Bummed Out Christmas" compilation) - it's a great song.
On July 14, 1973, Phil and Don took the stage at a show in California, just another oldies show. However, a long-simmering feud was just below the surface. At mid-set, a somewhat tipsy Don insulted his brother Phil, who smashed his guitar in front of a shocked audience and walked off the stage. Don is taken aback for a moment, then cooly announces to the audience "The Everly Brothers died 10 years ago" and finished off the set as a solo.
For the next ten years, both brothers recorded solo albums and faced the inevitable question "When are you reuniting with your brother?" That reunion came in September of 1983 when Phil and Don took the stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
The resulting reunion album and home video of the concert sets off a mini-renaissance for the Everlys. The following year, they reached #4 on the UK charts with a Paul McCartney song written especially for them: "On The Wings Of A Nightingale". The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame inducted the Everly Brothers in its very first year of existence (1986), cementing their rich legacy of music forever.
According to the official Everly Brothers Fan Club web site, as of 2005 they were continuing to tour (mainly in England) and were just as surprised when Rhino Records licensed all of the Warner Brothers releases to Collectors Choice Music for re-release (including this Christmas album) that same year.
UP NEXT: More, eh? Another Christmas CD from this guy? What does this make, four? Five?