The Everly Brothers - Songs Our Daddy Taught Us: A Journey into the roots of the Everly Brothers … and Americana music!

Bear Family BCD 17355 BG

The Everly Brothers brought a whiff of Kentucky to the pop charts in 1957. Bye, Bye Love, Wake Up Little Susie, All I Have To Do Is Dream and Bird Dog were pure pop, but Don and Phil’s perfect harmonies had an unmistakable bluegrass twang, and hoisting their big Gibson jumbos in unison, they were real teenage heroes. The duo made a big impact on my early teenage years and as soon as I was working and able to buy records (I’m talking vinyl here), I did a catch-up on the LPs that I’d missed by Don and Phil. It was probably sometime in 1963 when I finally got hold of SONGS OUR DADDY TAUGHT US, their second album, originally released in the UK on the old London label in early 1959. In many respects it had been a risky album for a relatively new rock’n’roll act to record and release right at the height of their fame. But in the late 1950s, many people still believed that rock’n’roll and teenage pop music had a short shelf-life and most of the performers saw their career as lasting possibly a couple of years at most. Bearing this in mind, the Everlys obviously felt that they needed to connect directly with their original country music fan base, after all their early pop hits had all scored highly on the American country charts with four of them reaching number one.

So it was that in August 1958 Don and Phil, with their trusty acoustic guitars and upright bass player Lightning Chance, entered the Nashville studios to record the Everlys’ second album. They had chosen a dozen ‘traditional’ songs; songs steeped in Appalachia, but many of them having their roots in the ‘old country’ having been carried to America by the immigrants from the British Isles a couple of hundred years in the past. Over a period of time the songs had been changed, even ‘Americanised,’ but they remained untouched by commercialism and retained their simple, but affecting country-folk roots that almost certainly would have sounded alien to any of the Everly Brothers’ teenage fans who bought the album some 50-odd years ago. Don and Phil’s other-worldly harmonies were a direct link to hillbilly brother acts like the Blue Sky Boys, the Delmores, the Louvins and others. Some of these songs they’d picked up from those acts via their father, Ike Everly, a renowned guitarist who is credited with being an influence on the likes of Chet Atkins and Merle Travis.

It is virtually impossible to pick out any one track above another from the dozen songs they recorded, as they are all of a uniformly high standard. Personal favourites for me would have to be Lightning Express, Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet? and  I’m Here To get My Baby Out Of Jail, just because I’m a sucker for a sad story ballad, and they don’t come much sadder than these three. Over the years, this album has grown in stature for me and in my humble opinion has stood the test of time. Much has been made over the past 15 years or so as to what is and what isn’t Americana music. SONGS OUR DADY TAUGHT US is Americana! No if or buts!

There’s a companion CD in this special package titled SONGS OUR DADDY LEARNED containing 16 recordings of early versions of these songs by such long-forgotten country music pioneers as Karl & Harty (Kentucky), John Jacob Niles (The Ballad Of Barberry Ellen), the York Brothers (Long Time Gone) and even Patti Page (Who’s Gonna Shoe My Pretty Little Feet). It’s interesting to compare the various renditions and as an extra bonus the accompanying 32pp booklet gives a detailed history of the songs and the various versions with rare photos to round-off an essential release that I cannot recommend too highly.

As a side issue, on November 25, 2013, Billie Joe Armstrong, best known as lead singer and guitarist of Green Day, and jazz-pop singer-songwriter Norah Jones, released FOREVERLY, a reinterpretation of the Everly Brothers SONGS OUR DADDY TAUGHT US album. They also released their version of Long Time Gone as a single followed by the release of a music video for That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine. The influence of Don and Phil goes on and on, from the Beatles and the Hollies, through Simon & Garfunkel to Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris to Shania Twain and Reba McEntire.