The Everly Brothers’ On-Stage Fight Is Still 1 of the Most Spectacular Rock Band Breakups in History: ‘It Was Really a Funeral’

The Everly Brothers created a world where their heart-melting harmonies could exist. The two brothers worked hard to revolutionize music and change how people viewed country-influenced rock and roll. Although the Everly Brothers worked hard to create magic through their songs, they had a terrible falling out that involved smashing of guitars. The two never spoke for a decade and reunited later, but the falling out will always remain one of the most spectacular band breakups in history.

(L-R) Phil and Don Everly performing on stage
Phil and Don Everly | Pete Cronin/Getty Images

The Everly Brothers were actual brothers

Don and Phil Everly were born two years apart in 1937 and 1939 to Isaac “Ike” Milford Everly Jr and Margaret Embry Everly. Ike and Margaret got married with an 11-year age gap between them. She was 15, and he was 26 when they got married. The Everly Brothers went to Longfellow Elementary School in Iowa for a year before moving to Shenandoah, where they spent a considerable chunk of their childhood. The family then relocated to Knoxville, Tennessee, where the brothers attended west high school.

In 1955 the family once again relocated to Madison while the Everly Brothers moved to Nashville. At that time, Don had already graduated from high school while Phil was attending Peabody Demonstration School, where he graduated in 1957. While living in Knoxville, a family friend of the Everly family noticed the brothers. They then became a duo, subsequently moving to Nashville. The family friend Chet Atkins was affiliated with RCA Victor studios but somehow got the brothers a recording deal with Columbia Records in 1956.

After recording their song ‘Keep-A-Lovin Me’ in 1956, the song flopped, and the record label dropped them. Atkins then introduced the brothers to Acuff-Rose music publishers. Rose gave the brothers a catch to signing the recording deal. The catch was that they would get the contract only if they signed on as songwriters. After working with the publishers, they eventually started getting noticed in the US and UK. The Everly Brothers then signed on to Warner Bros and released hit songs such as ‘Walk Right Back,’ ‘That’s Old Fashioned, and ‘Crying In The Rain.’

The brothers battled addiction

After getting discharged from active duty from the Marine Corps, the Everly Brothers picked up their music careers but had little success in the US. Their songs failed to chart, and only one LP, Beat & Soul’ made it to No. 141. By 1964, the brothers were addicted to amphetamines. However, Don had a more profound addiction as he also took Ritalin, which deepened their troubles.

Don’s addiction went on for three years until he got hospitalized after having a nervous breakdown and to treat his addiction. The media didn’t get wind of their addiction troubles since they would lie to the press. When Don collapsed in 1962 in England, reporters were informed that he had food poisoning. Even when the media insisted that he’d taken an overdose of pills, Don’s brother and wife insisted that he was just exhausted.

Their infamous falling out was one for the books


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It’s never a good idea to mix business with pleasure, as evidenced by many rock bands who get involved with drugs and other things. The Everlys had been working together almost all their lives. They had managed to hold a façade for 20 years until things fell through the cracks. In 1973, Don showed up drunk to a show they were performing in Hollywood. Don recapped the night, saying:

I was half in the bag that evening – the only time I’ve ever been drunk on stage in my life. I knew it was the last night, and on the way out I drank some tequila, drank some champagne – started celebrating the demise. It was really a funeral. People thought that night was just some brouhaha between Phil and me. 

Don kept messing the lyrics up until his brother Phil had had enough of the situation. Phil smashed his guitar over his head and walked out of the concert, leaving Don to finish the show alone. According to Rolling Stone the brothers didn’t talk again for 10 years. They, however, met at their father’s funeral, but things remained tense between them. Fortunately, the Everlys patched things up in 1983 for a lucrative reunion concert.

How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.