by Robert Wilkinson
Today is the birthday of the legendary Don Everly and Cajun guitar master Sonny Landreth.
Don Everly (February 1, 1937) is the older half of the Everly Brothers, THE prototypical tight high harmony vocal duo. (Don did the lead vocals.) As I noted on brother Phil Everly’s recent birthday tribute, the Everly Brothers set the vocal harmonization standard for 10,000 musicians who followed in their footsteps. They were the prototypical tight high harmony vocal duo who took infinitely catchy country and rock tunes, put their style on it, and produced some truly awesome and beautiful music.
The Everly Brothers influenced the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, the Bee Gees, and every other group that ever sang a melody line with “diatonic thirds” for the harmony lines. These “twin melodies” make for stunning vocal intertwining, and back when I was performing, we used them extensively in how we vocalized our songs. In fact, we covered “Bird Dog” and “When Will I Be Loved” trying to hit identical harmonies as the Everlys did.
Phil just died not long ago, so this birthday celebration is lifted from my recent tribute to his birthday tribute. From the late 50s and early 60s, one of the best vocal duos in history, the Everly Brothers!
We’ll begin with a very strong live performance of one of their most dynamic rockers followed by one of their biggest hits, a song written by both Everly Brothers, performed live on American Bandstand in 1964! “Gone Gone Gone” and “Cathy’s Clown”
Another great two-fer! The Everlys live cranking out “Bird Dog” and “Till I Kissed Her”
This looks to be the very first time they were on live television! Very young (Phil was 18!), more than a little nervous, this era was when rock and roll, rhythm and blues, rockabilly, and country all blended and created a new global era in music. From 1957, this was really live in the studio! Here are Don and Phil performing their first hit, a tune which went to #2, “Bye Bye Love”
Here’s a VERY early clip of the Everly Brothers performing the first record by them I ever owned, “Take A Message to Mary” (followed in the same clip by another rave up performance of “Bird Dog” with some amazingly tight harmonies and some strange horns in the background.)
Here’s a clip of the Everlys in a 1957 live performance on Ed Sullivan of one of their early hits. The horn arrangement seems way over-produced, but television could be like that back then. “Wake Up Little Susie”
Fast forward to 2004! Here they crank out a great version of “Wake Up Little Susie”
From 1960 on the Saturday Night Beech Nut Show, very live and taking it to new heights, the Everly Brothers performing the original “When Will I Be Loved”
Here's a television clip from 1960 featuring the Everly Brothers live doing the Buddy Holly smash, "That'll BE The Day"
From 1961, live on UK television backed by the original Crickets, here are the Everly Brothers doing their twin hits, “All I Have to Do is Dream” and “Cathy’s Clown,” the latter song written by both Don and Phil. (It’s been said this was the tour of the UK by the Everly Brothers that changed the way John Lennon and Paul McCartney harmonized.)
From 1962 on the Ed Sullivan Show while they were still in the Marines, here are Don and Phil in full Marine dress uniforms in a live performance of "Crying In The Rain."
Here's an audio-only studio version of their hit from their first album, "I Wonder If I Care As Much" Here's a great 9 minute clip of Alternate Takes 1 and 2, along with the song as it was finally released. "I wonder If I Care As Much."
From 1983, a long awaited event! Live in London, here’s the entire 1 hour + concert featuring the stunning harmonies of “The Everly Brothers Live at the Royal Albert Hall” (It starts with the very danceable Roy Orbison-penned “Claudette,” moves into “Walk Right Back,” and keeps going from there!)
To know more about how the Everly Brothers came to be amazing harmonists and rock and roll legends, here’s a great 43 minute documentary called The Life and Times of the Everly Brothers
We’ll close with yet two more performances by the Everly Brothers of the rocking “Gone Gone Gone.” Here the Everly Brothers sing on top of the studio instrumentation of their 1964 hit, “Gone Gone Gone”
And for the best version of this great tune, complete with a lot of dancers shakin’ it to the max, here are the Everly Brothers on Shindig in late 1964 cranking out one of their best performances of “Gone Gone Gone”
So though Phil’s great life and career are now done and gone, gone, gone, his awesome voice will last forever! Thanks for the memories. As I noted a while ago, I believe the angels just got a new choir director!!
For a finale to this birthday tribute, here they are doing Paul McCartney’s very beautiful song “Wings of A Nightingale”
We now turn to Sonny Landreth, he of the liquid guitar style of playing, where the notes seems to slip like water from one end of the scale to the next. Sonny Landreth (February 1, 1951) is an amazing blues player from Louisiana, known particularly for his unique style of playing slide guitar. He’s played with some of the best, including Clifton Chenier, John Hiatt and the Goners, and Jimmy Buffett. I had the rare privilege of seeing him when he was much younger and playing lead for Clifton Chenier in mid-70s Austin, and he was beyond great!!
Here’s more on his style from Wikipedia that all you guitar pickers out there may want to study:
Landreth is best known for his slide playing, having developed a technique where he also frets notes and plays chords and chord fragments behind the slide while he plays. Landreth plays with the slide on his little finger, so that his other fingers have more room to fret behind the slide. He's also known for his right-hand technique, which involves tapping, slapping, and picking strings, using all of the fingers on his right hand. He wears a special thumb pick/ flat pick hybrid on his thumb so he can bear down on a pick while simultaneously using his finger style technique for slide.
And now, the amazing guitar work of Aquarian Sonny Landreth!
From 1987 in Germany, here’s John Hiatt, Sonny, and the Goners playing “Radio Girl”
From the same gig, “Memphis in the Meantime”
From Montreal 1994, Sonny doing great slide work on “Zydeco Shuffle”
An amazing live performance by John and Sonny doing John’s tune “Riding With the King”
Here’s Sonny with the great Mark Knopfler in a great live performance of “Je Suis Desole”
From the 1996 DVD ”Night In London” Sonny and Mark live doing “Cannibals”
Here’s the entire 95 minute show! “Night in London with Mark Knopfler and Sonny Landreth”
Here’s Sonny with Jools Holland and Friends in a live performance of “Back to Bayou Teche”
Here’s Sonny with Eric Clapton in a live performance doing “Promise Land”
From the 2008 “Blues on the Green,” Sonny live with Cindy Cashdollar doing “Key to the Highway”
From the 2011 Old Settlers Music Festival in Dripping Springs, TX, here’s Sonny with my old friend Eric Johnson live doing “Milky Way Home”
From the same gig, “Gone Pecan”
Here are audio-only tunes set to stills.
From Santa Fe in 1987, John Hiatt and the Goners in a live performance of “Tip of My Tongue”
From the 1995 album, “South of I 10,” Sonny and Mark Knopfler doing the original studio version of “Shooting For The Moon”
From the album “The Tiki Bar is Open,” the studio version of “Everybody Went Low” (check out Sonny’s lead that starts about 1 minute 40 in!)
Here’s the original studio title track. Simply awesome! “The Tiki Bar is Open”
For the closer to this birthday celebration, I found a couple of smokin’ numbers of Sonny and Eric Clapton!
From the 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival, Sonny and Eric performing “Hell At Home”
From the same gig, “Uberesso”
Here's Sonny Landreth's Website
So here’s a huge thanks to our birthday boys, one a master of the voice, the other a master of the slide! May you both keep rocking on for many more years!!
© Copyright 2014 Robert Wilkinson