October 12

The Everly Brothers: Country Music’s Most Contentious Band Breakup

As most band fans say, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than a band breakup. What you once enjoyed listening to will only be a thing of the past, and you’ll be stuck with just memories. But what is even more heartbreaking with these breakups is when it’s unexpectedly chaotic. For the most part, it unravels an image of the band being like a close-knit family (some bands really are created with blood relations) or close friends. And this is a reality that we’ve seen with Guns N’ Roses, Oasis, Rage Against the Machine, to name a few. 

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In country music, there is one band breakup that every fan knows, and this has been particularly painful. Let’s hope our relationships are better than them. 

The Everly Brothers

The success of The Everly Brothers was undeniable, and from 1957 until 1962, the duo earned a top-10 hit song at least once every four months, a performance unrivaled even by some of the biggest names of their generation. But the success and the fame slowly started to dwindle after the brothers had a falling out with their publisher as they used an unaffiliated songwriter. They then began working under pseudonyms, and they even tried establishing their own label.

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But after their one-year hiatus due to enlistment in the US Marine Corps, they were unable to recapture their audience and the initial success that they enjoyed. They signed with RCA Records and took on other gigs, but even that did not help at all, and unfortunately, things got even worse for them. 

The lackluster success spurred Don and Phil to use drugs, with Don becoming particularly hooked to ‘Ritalin therapy.’ According to the singer in an interview with the Rolling Stone, people didn’t really understand drugs well back then, but he admitted that it really did get out of hand naturally. He ultimately suffered a breakdown which led him to be hospitalized, where he also received therapy to help him unhook from the drug. His brother Phil also quit using drugs around the same time. 

It was 1973 when The Everly Brothers took their final stage. They were set to perform for two days at Knott’s Berry Farm, but before their first show, Don called up Phil and told him that he wanted this set to be their last show and that they should give each other some years apart. Decades of working together as business partners and creative collaborators slowly and undeniably burned them out. 

The first show went without the hitch, but the second one was chaotic. Before the second show, Don turned to alcohol to cope with the ending of their duo. That was the first he had ever been drunk on stage because he knew it would be the last. In the same Rolling Stone interview, Don confessed that he drank tequila and champagne and started celebrating the demise like a funeral. And so, while on stage, he forgot the lyrics to one of their biggest hits, and his speech started to slur uncontrollably. The audience started reacting, and the next thing they knew, Phil smashed his guitar and stormed off the stage. 

Don remained, and he told the fans that The Everly Brothers died 10 years ago. 

They did reunite at their father’s funeral and patched things up in 1983. The duo was again on stage performing together and even recorded another album with chart-hitting singles. Phil died in 2014, and Don died just this year. 


The Everly Brothers

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