Bye Bye Phil, goodbye-eye

Phil and Don Everly, the heartthrobs of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. (submitted photo)

This poster started teens talking and hearts fluttering all over town. (Pope County Historical Society)

Musician Phil Everly died last week.

News media called Phil and his brother Don rock ‘n’ roll pioneers and reported that the Everly Brothers and their music influenced many famous musicians, including Elvis Presley, the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

The news about Phil’s passing stirred up old memories from the late 1950s when the Everly Brothers and their rock ‘n’ roll music became popular.

I was in junior high then, and my girlfriends and I would go to our friend Tootsie’s house after school to listen to her record player spin 45 rpm records (those little vinyl disks with the big hole in the middle).

We played our Everly Brothers records so often that we learned the words and could sing along to their early hits -- “Wake Up Little Susie” and “Bye Bye Love.”

The brothers led the way into the rock ‘n’ roll era and released hit after hit when I was young. With Don singing the melody and Phil the harmony, their music reflected the bluegrass and country sounds of their Kentucky roots.

Their popularity soared, and my friends and I eagerly anticipated each new song. We also practiced dancing to their music, teaching each other the dance steps we knew, mostly learned by watching Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.” I taped Don and Phil’s photo on a wall of my bedroom along with other “Justin Biebers” of their day: Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley and Fabian.

The Everly Brothers’ songs were easy to harmonize and sing along to, and the words struck a chord with young teens. We also knew the lyrics to “Cathy’s Clown,” “Devoted To You,” “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” Crying In The Rain,” “Walk Right Back,” “Bird Dog” and “Unchained Melody.”

I wasn’t surprised when the group was one of the early inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.    

A must-see event

One summer in the mid-1960s, the Everly Brothers were booked to perform at the Lakeside Ballroom in Glenwood, a town in west central Minnesota about 30 miles from my little hometown of Barrett.

Advertising flyers with Don and Phil’s picture were posted around the community, and I am sure I heard about the event on the regional radio station that played the Top-40 pop songs. All my friends were talking about it.

I really, really wanted to see and hear the brothers perform “live and in person.”

Alas, I cried tears. My closest girlfriends all had dates. I did not have a date, nor did I have anyone to go with me. 

My dad was the manager of the grain elevator and during the busy summer harvest time, employed a local high-school farm boy, Allen, to help weigh and unload grain. Allen was a good-looking, very popular, athletic guy.

Dad knew how much his oldest daughter wanted to see the Everly Brothers, and he also knew that Al was going to the concert with his steady girlfriend, Jackie. So, trying to be helpful, Dad asked Allen if I could ride along with them to the concert.

In spite of being shocked and embarrassed that my father would ask such a thing, I went. Was I happy for the chance to see and hear the Everly Brothers? You bet!

So with Al driving, Jackie sitting close to him, and me hugging the front passenger door, off we drove down Highway 55 from Barrett to Glenwood.   

An unforgettable night

The ballroom was full of teenagers who danced to the warm-up act, Burch Ray and the Walkers. As I remember, I was asked and danced with a few guys there, and chatted with other kids I knew. Finally, it was time for the big event of the evening: the Everly Brothers.

As they came on stage with their guitars, everyone pushed and tried to crowd up close to the front to see the famous recording stars. The booths all around the edge of the ballroom provided a place to sit, but from there, the view was not very good.

No chairs were set up in front of the stage since the teens had been dancing on the hardwood floor only minutes before the duo arrived on stage.

Then, to everyone’s surprise, the master of ceremonies asked us to sit down on the floor in front of the stage so everyone could see the brothers perform. We all complied, and everybody now had a good look at the handsome Everlys strumming their instruments and singing their wonderful songs.

I am sure everyone in attendance enjoyed the performance. I know I certainly did.

After the applause died down, we all left the ballroom. I do not recall much about the drive home, but I do have vivid memories of the concert.

And now, many years later, I still enjoy the Everly Brothers’ music and still sing along whenever I hear their songs.

Vonny Rohloff can be reached at or at 651-748-7861.

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