LOS ANGELES — Phil Everly, who with his older brother, Don, made up the most revered vocal duo of the rock-music era, died Friday in Burbank, Calif., of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his wife, Patti, told the Los Angeles Times. He was 74.
"We are absolutely heartbroken," she said, noting that the disease was the result of a lifetime of smoking. "He fought long and hard."
In the late 1950s and 1960s, the Everlys molded rock 'n' roll with their high harmony while their poignant lyrics captured the restlessness and energy of a generation of young people.
Their hit records included the then-titillating "Wake Up Little Susie," the universally identifiable "Bye Bye Love, " plus "All I Have to Do Is Dream" and "Cathy's Clown" — all No. 1 hits for the brothers.
In all, their career spanned five decades, although they performed separately from 1973 to 1983. In their heyday, between 1957 and 1962, they had 19 Top 40 hits.
The brothers spent their early years in Shenandoah, Iowa, until moving to Tennessee. They were among the first performers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Although 1957 was the first time many Americans had heard the Everly Brothers, listeners to radio station KMA in Shenandoah already were familiar with the singing siblings.
The brothers' parents, Ike and Margaret Everly, had a program on KMA titled "The Everly Family Show." The elder Everlys were folk and country singers from central Kentucky, and that is the source of much of the Everly Brothers' sound.
Phil and Don Everly were ages 6 and 8 when they began singing and playing guitars on their parents' show. They continued their radio performances through high school before Chet Atkins invited the duo to Nashville.
The Everlys played an Omaha concert in 1995 and went home to Shenandoah for a performance in 1986.
Don Everly, now 76, spoke to The World-Herald before the '95 concert, describing his reaction to being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"The company I was in, I couldn't believe it, " he said from his home in Nashville. "There I was with Little Richard ... who was one of the greatest rock 'n' roll singers I think there ever was — and ever will be. He lives that part. He is rock 'n' roll. He's outlandish and outrageous, but he's wonderful."
Don Everly said in 1995 that the 10-year break from Phil helped the duo in the long run. "Probably one of the reasons we enjoy doing it (performing together) now is because we haven't worn ourselves out on it, " he said.
This report includes material from the Associated Press and World-Herald archives.