U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell paid tribute today to Kentucky son and music legend, Phil Everly. The following are the Senator’s remarks:
“I rise today to bid farewell to a Kentucky son who became half of one of the most enduring and influential acts of country and rock and roll music. Phil Everly, of the hit-making duo the Everly Brothers, passed away this weekend at the age of 74.
“Phil and his older brother Don brought their trademark close harmony singing, modeled in the Appalachian country and bluegrass music tradition, to rock and roll beginning in the late 1950s. With songs including ‘Bye Bye Love,’ ‘Wake Up Little Susie,’ and ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream,’ they consistently scored hits at the top of the charts.
“The Everly Brothers are famous the world over and influenced musicians such as the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, and many others. But they were especially beloved in their family’s home State of Kentucky, and particularly in Central City, in Muhlenberg County, western Kentucky, which was the site of the Everly Brothers’ Labor Day Homecoming Music Festival every year.
“This festival included many famous country and rock and roll music stars from the Everly Brothers themselves to Chet Atkins, Keith Urban, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Tammy Wynette. Money raised went to local charities.
“Phil and Don Everly’s musical career was the result of a lifetime spent singing. Phil and Don were born the sons of a Kentucky coal miner turned country musician, Ike Everly, and his wife Margaret. The family moved to pursue musical opportunities and ended up playing live country music on the radio in Shenandoah, Iowa. The whole family was spotlighted, from Mom and Dad Everly to Little Donnie and six-year-old ‘Baby Boy Phil.’ Don and Phil spent their summers in their parent’s home of Muhlenberg County.
“As teenagers the Every Brothers started their own careers, first as songwriters, then as performers. In 1957 they scored a number-one hit with ‘Bye Bye Love.’ In their trademark style, Phil sang the high harmony notes while Don sang baritone, their voices intertwining in a way that sounded easy but was difficult to duplicate.
“They continued to have best-selling songs for several years, including 12 Billboard Top10 hits, and released the landmark country-rock album ‘Roots’ in 1968 that included snippets of their old family radio show. The Beatles have said that the vocal harmonies from their first number-one hit, ‘Please Please Me’ of 1963, were modeled after the Everly Brothers’ 1960 hit song ‘Cathy’s Clown.’ Phil was the author of one of the duo’s best loved songs, ‘When Will I Be Loved?,’ which was a Top 10 hit for Linda Ronstadt in 1975.
“While older brother Don was born in Kentucky, younger brother Phil was actually born in Chicago on January 19, 1939. Nearly 50 years later, in 1988, the mayor of Central City gave Phil Everly an honorary Kentucky birth certificate. ‘I really appreciate you making me a full-blown Kentuckian,’ Phil said as he received it. ‘I’ve been lying for a lot of years.’
“The Everly Brothers’ Labor Day Homecoming Music Festival began in 1988 as a way for the Everly Brothers to show their gratitude to their hometown fans. In 2010, the Central City Tourism Commission opened the Muhlenberg County Music Museum, which showcases a complete collection of Don and Phil’s albums and features a 1950s-style jukebox that plays their biggest hits.
“Sadly, just before Phil’s death, local western Kentucky fans of the Everly Brothers were planning a celebration of what would have been Phil’s 75th birthday on January 19. Instead, the Central City Tourism Commission will host a memorial service at the museum on that day to celebrate Phil’s life and music. Phil is survived by many family members and beloved friends, including his brother Don.
“I know my colleagues will join me in expressing gratitude and appreciation for the wonderful music that Phil, along with his brother Don, provided the world. The music of the Everly Brothers continues to provide joy to people to this day. Kentucky is honored to have played such a role in the shaping of this extraordinary musical family.”