KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Don Everly of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group ‘The Everly Brothers’ passed away at his Nashville home on Saturday. He was 84.
He and his brother Phil Everly, who passed away in 2014, were best known for their unique music style that influenced many biggest acts from the 1960s and beyond. Something many people don’t realize though is much of the duo’s success started in Knoxville. That’s why along a busy stretch of Kingston Pike, drivers may notice a quiet corner. It’s Everly Brothers Park.
Jack Neely, the Executive Director of the Knoxville History Project, said Phil and Don Everly called Knoxville home from 1953 to 1955. They even attended West High School.
“People sometimes disparage that, saying they didn’t live here very long,” Neely said. “Two and a half years when you’re a teenager is a really long time and they went through lots of changes while they were there.”
With those changes also came a lot of firsts. “The boys began performing together as a duo, which they had never done before they came to Knoxville,” said Neely.
They also discovered rock and roll in Knoxville which they would later make their own. “They kind of combined rock and roll with these sweet, gospel harmonies that they grew up with,” he explained. “They just took the country by storm, in fact the world by storm.”
The Everly Brothers eventually moved on and made it big in Nashville. However, with every step someone takes at Everly Brothers Park in Bearden, their impact on the music industry can be felt.
“From Bob Dylan, to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, you know Graham Nash put this all together, Simon and Garfunkel both individually wrote pieces for this park,” recounted Neely of the quotes engraved in cobblestones along the park’s pathway. “It says, ‘Phil Everly was one of my great heroes. With his brother, Don, they were one of the major influences on the Beatles. When John and I first started to write songs, I was Phil and he was Don,” said Neely as he read the stone with a message from Paul McCartney.
With both brothers now gone, the people of Knoxville should remember, there’s always a little corner on the west side of town they can head to. A corner that could bring inspiration, just like the Everly Brothers found in Knoxville.