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The Everly Brothers: A Family Business – American Songwriter

Adria Petty remembers going to school in Los Angeles with Chris Everly and seeing his father, Phil Everly, pick him up from school. Adria’s own father, Tom Petty, also noticed the Everlys in the carpool line. “​​My dad started coming to pick up because Phil Everly was there,” Adria tells American Songwriter. “The only way you could have gotten my dad to a school, of any kind, was if you put an Everly brother at the entrance of it.” 

Tom and Phil became friends, the former an adamant admirer of the latter. Adria vividly recalls her father playing The Everly Brothers records at home, constantly studying the brothers’ storytelling, showmanship, and guitar playing. Once connected with Phil, Tom became a friend of the Everly family. Tom would even be the one to give the brothers their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1986. As a result of this friendship, the musicians’ children also became friends. “There’s a connection between [us],” Adria says. 

Adria explains that she’s connected with many musicians’ children over the years due to their shared experiences. “We have this sort of reverence for the flow that they were in—when they would be in flow and making these incredible things,” Adria says. “We’ve all had a very similar life experience, which was making a lot of sacrifices to make space for that creativity. It took up a lot of the space in our world.” 

That was just the way life was. Life was full of schoolwork and music, playing sports and attending concerts. But both Adria and Jason Everly, one of Phil’s sons, felt incredibly fortunate to have witnessed their fathers’ creativity as someone close to them.  

“Our parents have a lot in common,” Adria continues, “because they were incredibly strong at their craft, and they took it to a religious level. They took it very seriously and were accomplished songwriters and players. My dad practiced every day of his life. He had a guitar in his hands every day of his life, even if it was just casually strumming before he ate a sandwich.” 

And in Phil Everly’s perspective, music was treated as a business, as Jason explains. The music business was also a serious affair for the Everly brother. “My dad would say in later years, ‘Before there was Pro Tools there [were] pros,’” Jason says. 

This seriousness for their craft paid off tenfold, then 10 times over again. The Everly Brothers helped to define the rock ’n’ roll genre with their trademark Kentucky country tinge, steel string strumming, and close harmonies. Songs like “Bye Bye Love” and “Wake Up Little Susie” would wiggle their way into the hearts of millions, and The Everly Brothers would enjoy an on-and-off career as a duo from 1951 to 2005. On the other side of things, Petty saw enormous industry and mainstream success as a rock singer/songwriter. There are few songs that made an impact on the world like “Free Fallin’” did. Ultimately, both The Everly Brothers and Petty would see their inductions into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame after numerous hit records.  

Unfortunately, after accomplished careers, each of the rock legends would pass away in the 2010s and 2020s: Phil Everly in 2014, Tom Petty in 2017, and Don Everly in 2021. After each of their respective passings, Adria, Jason, and the family estates were left with not just the responsibility of honoring their family members’ lives, but also with their vast music catalogs. For Adria and Jason specifically, there was a growing desire to ensure that their fathers’ work continued to inspire music listeners for generations to come. 

As a result, Adria has worked directly with her father’s music catalog via the Tom Petty estate. Most recently, though, Adria was tapped to help Jason and the Everly estates preserve and honor the music of the rockin’ Everly Brothers in a new compilation of their music titled Hey Doll Baby, which was first released on Record Store Day April 2022.  

The music compilation is a Side 1 and Side 2 record with eight Everly Brothers songs on the first side and nine on the second. Each song was carefully selected by Adria and The Everly Brothers’ estates to best represent the richness of the Brothers’ rockabilly. Adria explains that curating the tracklist was like going on an archeological dig; each song was gently extracted from the sands of a lengthy discography.  

The focus of this dig wasn’t on rediscovering and remastering only Everly Brothers hits, but rather on the deep cuts and timeless covers. A few mainstream hits were also included, but they don’t dominate the record by any means. This way, the collection of Everly Brothers songs showcases the brothers’ self-made roots and gritty Americana sound. After all, Jason recalls, his father and uncle had made their careers from the ground up. In fact, back in the day trying to get their first big break, the brothers relied on the financial support of their parents. So by the time they actually got their first break, they were only about two or three weeks away from “calling it a day” and “going to get jobs,” Jason says. Their backstory consequently inspired their loved ones to create Hey Doll Baby. It was the estates’ way of pointing out the lesser-known triumphs of The Everly Brothers.  

“What ended up happening with the music, which I think is kind of unfortunate, is that it just got packaged over and over again into different varieties of greatest hits. They’re all called like ‘Golden Hits’ or this kind of hit or re-recorded this or that,” Adria says. “But the truth is, there’s a huge body of music ranging from Country/Americana to really incredible rockabilly and old standards, some of which we put on Hey Doll Baby.”  

“There’s so much depth from the beginning,” Jason adds, “and I think what Adria is saying is that there is so much material that because of the circumstances probably got overlooked. But the genius, the quality of what they did on all this material gets to be re-explored now. And Adria’s done a magnificent job on this record … we need to really focus on this and bring attention to the world.”  

“It’s still relevant and it still moves you,” Adria confirms.  

Outside of the title track, “Hey Doll Baby,” which was written by Titus Turner, there’s a fantastic cover of “I Walk The Line” (originally sung by Johnny Cash). Adria also uncovered “a great ‘Maybellene’ [originally sung by Chuck Berry].”  

“This [type of song] can be overlooked because they’re not original tracks,” Adria says. “But, you know, to me, they were cool and important, and they really emphasize the guitar playing. And there was something less orchestrated and campy about the songs that we picked. They felt very visceral and almost like you were standing close to them while they recorded it.” 

Another deep cut on the record is “Gone, Gone, Gone.” In Jason’s opinion, the Don/Phil written track didn’t get played enough when the Brothers were touring. It also happens to be one of Jason’s favorite upbeat Everly Brothers songs. “It’s just too cool for school,” Jason says of the song. “It’s like them almost clapping back at the Beatles,” Adria adds.  

Other songs on the record include the aforementioned hits like “Devoted to You,” “Cathy’s Clown,” and “Love Hurts.” 

All of these songs on the double-sided record showcase the music of two brothers who believed that life without music was not a great life. Their very essence is sewn into these songs, with all of the genre-changing, lesser-known treasures included. And as for those perhaps most impacted by the legacy of The Everly Brothers—their family and friends—Jason and Adria explain that they’ve passed on the importance of the Brothers to their own children.  

**insert image of Everly Petty with Tom Petty**

“My daughter is named Everly Petty,” Adria says. “My dad loved that because, to us, Everly meant perfect harmony. So when we were trying to find a name for my daughter, my dad and I came up with that name. He also loved it because it’s the same initials as Elvis Presley. He was such an Elvis fan … And she has had a very musical upbringing. She’s an incredible singer. And music is an important part of the food groups in our life.” Jason’s own daughters also play The Everly Brothers on repeat. “Both of them have 10 or 20 Everly Brothers songs on their playlists. Very few hits, actually,” Jason says. 

Thus, music has always been a part of the Everlys’ and Pettys’ lives. But now the next generation bears the responsibility of a musical legacy. It’s a responsibility, however, that they are more than happy to take on. “It feels like a very noble cause,” Adria says of her work with the Everly estates. “There’s just a legacy of respecting, understanding, playing music, and preserving music in this family that I have such enormous respect for.” 

Photo by Harry Hammond/Getty Images

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