Gone Retro Magazine
Interview with Don Everly 1972
by Alan Leatherwood
Photo provided by Peter Aarts
Here is an interview I did with Don Everly of the Everly Brothers, about a year or two before the duo's breakup during the 70s, which lasted for ten years. Of course, there was no way of knowing the breakup would be occurring at the time of the interview, which was done following a performance they did at the Saints and Sinners Lounge in Mayfield Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, the week of December 7-16, during their promotional tour for the RCA VICTOR album "STORIES WE COULD TELL". I was an occasional contributor to a Cleveland Underground Newspaper, The GREAT SWAMP ERIE da da BOOM, and I requested of the editor to let me do the interview. It was basically your typical underground 60's / 70's newspaper, and we were all typical counter culture types, intellectuals and hippies, and a few undercover rockers (like myself) trying to meet a deadline. The newspapers didn't bother indicating the date or year of the issues that were put out, so I assume no one considered it too relevant.
The interview was originally more than twice this length, but the newspaper edited it down from the tapes I gave them. I didn't know they were going to do that, or I would have edited it myself. As it is, some of their edits were very abrupt and the questions don't always flow in a natural way because of that. I'm not sure the tapes were ever returned to me, but if they were, they're buried in the catacombs with a thousand other tapes.
Sadly, there were a lot of interesting topics we discussed that did not make it to the final cut. I think they wanted to limit the newsprint space so they could devote more time to the latest article on how to better cultivate your pot plants; and other really relevant stuff like that.
Before I reprint the interview, here's an actual audio file of Don talking. I performed with my own duo at the time ("Leatherwood and Lisa") and I was curious about how Don felt about rehearsing new and old songs. This was Don's response. CLICK HERE
"These two walking rock 'n' roll legends had turned down all requests for interviews from Cleveland media except from country music radio station WELW (Willoughby) and Great Swamp Erie da da BOOM.
Their sets were dynamic but very short. Lots of high energy down Memory Lane. The backing band was good and loud, which consisted of all of the players from the group formerly known as STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK ("Incense, Peppermints") Among other things, we heard "Wake Up Little Susie" , "Bye Bye Love", "All I Have to do is Dream", "Let it be Me", "Till I Kissed You", "Mama Tried", and a driving version of "Honky Tonk Woman". The last songs seemed to be done at double tempo.
Everly road manager Don Wayne and Alan Leatherwood's singing partner sat in as Al and Don talked at a nearby bar. Portions of the very relaxed hour and a half conversation follow. "
Don Everly (to the waiter): Bring us 3 beers and one wine.
Alan Leatherwood: I know you're with RCA Victor now. How come there's been a 3 year lag since the last Everly Bros. record?
Don Everly: Because I didn't find the interest in the record business or the record people that I wanted...before I would attempt to record...because I don't care how good your product is, you can be shuffled around and just get lost.
Alan Leatherwood: Were you shuffled at Warner's?
Don Everly: I think so, yeah. I think we'd been there too long. Once you been at a label, they tend to...
Alan Leatherwood: Take you for granted...
Don Everly: Yeah. "Ah, they've been around and everybody's interested in a new face."
Alan Leatherwood: Yeah. Did you ever perform any of the songs from the Roots album like "Illinois"?
Don Everly: That's one of the reasons I was so discouraged. That album was so good. And it just went down the tubes. It didn't even do as well as some of the stuff that was just packaged together.
Alan Leatherwood: I don't know. Warners seemed to be pushing you. They included "Lord of the Manor" in a sampler.
Don Everly: Yeah, but actually "Lord of the Manor" came about in such a strange way, I told them that was the side of the record. They pushed the other side, "Milk Train", which I didn't like at all.
Alan Leatherwood: It was fun.
Don Everly: Yeah, it was fun. Well, I went along with them and then told them that was the wrong side. The didn't seem to agree but finally put out one version of it ("Lord of the Manor"). It was shortened and fiddled around with. Just lost.
Alan Leatherwood: Do things like this bother you at this point in your career? Or do you just let it ride?
Don Everly: No. You've go to..when you go in and do something that you think is creative and you think it's good and it doesn't even get the first change...then I feel that it's just mucked about. I don't know how else to put it without sounding like I'm bitter about it. No, I wasn't pleased at all with the way it was handled.
Alan Leatherwood: Do you think it's got anything to do with your "hippy trippy dippy" underground programmers?
Don Everly: I don't know. What they play is their own business too. I dig the record company just getting the record to the programmer, disc jockeys and whoever these people are. I can't do that. I'm not going to tote my record around.
Alan Leatherwood: What about the response on your own album? (Don Everly)
Don Everly: It's the same thing. No one wanted to hear one Everly Brother any more than they wanted to hear two. They didn't care about the product, what it sounded like, they didn't give it a listen. No one listened to it, I think.
Alan Leatherwood: I've got something I want to ask you that really bothers me when any talented artist is caught in the trap of being someone else's nostalgia trip. You guys are caught in this. You even say on stage to the audience "regress" and meanwhile...
" I'M SELLING A SONG THAT IS FIFTEEN YEARS OLD - BUT I'M FIFTEEN YEARS OLDER, SO I THINK THAT IT EQUALS OUT." Don Everly
Don Everly: The whole world's a nostalgia trip.
Alan Leatherwood: Yeah, I dig it too, sure.
Don Everly: As long as I say it, it's all right, but if they put up the sign board out there "Regress with the Everly Bros" I would say "Take it down." I'm not selling nostalgia.
Alan Leatherwood: How do you feel though? Being caught in a sort of time warp?
Don Everly: If I got up there and sang something like "Illinois" and some of their other things from Roots or "Tumbling Tumbleweeds", the audience would say, "Boo. Where's "Bye Bye Love?", and that's all of 'em. That's not just this audience either. At Fillmore East, Fillmore West, Fillmore Middle, and wherever. It's all the same. They think they're cheated if you go in...and I can understand it...because I go in and see acts that date back further than I do, like Little Richard, and if he doesn't sing things like "Tutti Fruiti" or "Lucille", I'll get up and yell about it. It's nostalgia in a way. But it's as good today as it was then.
Alan Leatherwood: It would seem that you would be upset about this. You're as creative as any new artist.
Don Everly: I don't know of any artist who started off in the 50's who's making it now with new material.
Alan Leatherwood: I was thinking about that today. Dion is the only guy who seems to be breaking this image. Of course, he had a layoff of 4 to 5 years or so.
Don Everly: Yeah, but he's only made it once, with that one song. That's happened quite a few times. Fats Domino had a hit, remember, with "Lady Madonna"; I'm talking about sustaining yourself and becoming a potential creator and innovator and swaying with the masses. Dion's not doing that.
Alan Leatherwood: Dion is into folk-college kind of thing.
Don Everly: That's good.
Alan Leatherwood: Have you thought about something like that as an outlet for your need for expression?
Don Everly: I don't know. Colleges are good but I don't...I don't know how to answer that. The need for my expression will come in my records, and does come that way, whether they sell or not. I stand on what I've done, put down on record.
Alan Leatherwood: I heard that the old "Crickets" have just gotten back together again with a new album out. It's sad, you know, it's like Sonny Curtis had so much promise as a solo and now the group is just rehashing the old Buddy Holly hits.
Don Everly: A lot of promoters were pushing rock & Roll revivals. They'd dig Buddy Holly up and put him on tour if they could make a buck out of it. I don't know that Buddy Holly would be happy with the releasing of those tapes that he cut in his garage. It doesn't represent him and his talent. When everyone goes to rock and roll heaven, we can ask him. (Laughter)
Alan Leatherwood: I'm happy with those 29 Hank Williams albums of loose tapes that were recorded under poor conditions. They did it with him too.
Don Everly: They're still doing it. I loved it when they did him with strings. I even reduplicated myself when we redid "Bye Bye Love". I was talked into that. It was a mistake. I'll never do that again.
Alan Leatherwood: The liner notes said that Boudleaux Bryant came in and produced the new version just like he did the original.
Don Everly: No. I never read the liner, I don't guess. That was a bummer trip for me. That was right after the Beatles hit. There was nothing that we could do that the record company was interested in putting out at that time. I wouldn't do it again. But I learned by that mistake.
Alan Leatherwood: I think you ought to just stick to the kind of direction you took on Roots. Ultimately, it's going to catch up to the public, the public that you want to reach.
Don Everly: I don't know who that is now.
Alan Leatherwood: What kind of material are you cutting on the Victor album?
Don Everly: Good material. It's the best album we've ever cut, right to this point. Brand new sound. It sounds like the Everly Brothers are supposed to sound.
Alan Leatherwood: Are you doing that Kristofferson thing you do on stage? Where did that come from?
Don Everly: Kris. It's brand new. It's all brand new.
Alan Leatherwood: I understand that John Sebastian is on it.
Don Everly: Delaney and Bonnie...Ry Cooder.
Alan Leatherwood: Mama Cass?
Don Everly: Not yet, but she will.
"SPEED KILLS ! I WAS HOOKED ON IT FOR TWO YEARS IN THE SIXTIES. EARLY SIXTIES - BEFORE IT WAS FASHIONABLE". Don Everly
Alan Leatherwood: You guys cut an anti-dope commercial 3 years ago.
Don Everly: It was anti-speed. SPEED. You see, all dope isn't good. I did the anti-speed thing because I'm so against it. I was hooked on it for two years in the 60's. Early 60's, before it was fashionable.
Alan Leatherwood: When you cut things like "Don't Blame Me?"
Don Everly: It was after that. I didn't record then for a year or so.
Alan Leatherwood: How important is HYPE? Was it stronger then versus now?
Don Everly: I don't know. I don't even know whether the hype is the answer anyway. All I care about is whether I want to listen to an album itself. If I can go back and listen to me without being embarrassed about it, that's all that matters.
Alan Leatherwood: When a really good track escapes the public's attention.
Don Everly: It's really disappointing, it tends to piss one off, you know.
Alan Leatherwood: When we lived down in Nashville I heard a rumor that when you guys left Acuff-Rose Publishing that they put the bad word on you, in the business, a hex.
Don Everly: They did.
Alan Leatherwood: They did a lot to hurt your career?
Don Everly: They sure did. They did everything they could. They must have dragged in every two guys that could even half-way carry a tune and tried to cut a duet...that's a fact.
Alan Leatherwood: I understand they're very powerful down there.
Don Everly: They were more powerful then. The reason I decided to leave Acuff-Rose is because one day they tried to block us from recording "Temptation", a song that they didn't control.
Alan Leatherwood: What do you think of such groups as Black Sabbath and Grand Funk Railroad?
Don Everly: I wouldn't recognize them if I found them floating in my coffee.
Alan Leatherwood: (Laughter) When you did the TV show was there a bit of pressure?
Don Everly: Yes.
Alan Leatherwood: I heard that the show was supposed to go to Marty Robins, but the LA people were trying to push Nashville out. I'm very curious about it. Bad feelings?
Don Everly: NO. No bad feeling whatsoever. It was just another money making scheme on the television part. ABC-TV. They just used us.
Alan Leatherwood: Like they used Johnny Cash?
Don White: (Road Manager): They wanted to go that way anyway.
Don Everly: Yeah. I don't know where that scuttlebutt came from but it was just a matter of taping two shows a week and they didn't have the budget. I think they were very lucky to have us.
Alan Leatherwood: Do you think you did any good shows?
Don Everly: With the time and the money that was given us, better than any other two guys could have done. It was all live. I was up at 8:00 a.m. till midnight, 1:00 a.m., getting that shit done. Pow, pow, pow. The pace was incredible.
Alan Leatherwood: Do you worry about your relationship with God or the Cosmos?
Don Everly: (Laughter) I'm on very good terms with my cosmos.
Alan Leatherwood: What are your terms? What's your cosmos?
"BYE BYE LOVE'S almost a mantra, wouldn' t you say?" (laughter) Don Everly
Don Everly: I have an understanding you know, with this body and with this mind. That's very philosophical. I don't know if that's exactly what you want to hear. I'm worldly. I've been all over the world.
Alan Leatherwood: Does that affect your outlook a lot?
Don Everly: Yes. When you've seen this world, like not just once. I've been most every place. Three or four times, not just one time, and it's in pretty sorry shape.
Alan Leatherwood: When you started out did you think it was in pretty sorry shape?
Don Everly: Then it wasn't! I don't believe it's in as sorry a shape as it's gonna get either.
Alan Leatherwood: Can you change it?
Don Everly: You can in certain ways. I don't know whether I'm going to try or not.
Alan Leatherwood: Has Phil wanted to express himself through an album of his own?
Don Everly: I think now he does. I'm the older brother. I was the first one to smoke cigarettes. It's the same thing.
Alan Leatherwood: Do you get along pretty good? Do you respect each other?
Don Everly: Considering. In certain areas we don't, I guess, but to answer that honestly you've got to look at the situation...You've go two guys who have been singing together for 25 years, you know, and we're not the Mills Brothers. (That was a lot easier.) There were four of them to start with. I don't know of any two other people that have sung together that long. That's really difficult.
Alan Leatherwood: Your brother follows you tighter than anything I've ever heard. If there's a phenomenon about the Everly Brothers, it's just the amazing togetherness and tightness. Even now, you know.
Don Everly: Yeah. It's difficult for me to get up there and not do it and not please myself.
Alan Leatherwood: You've got a pretty high range !
Don Everly: Yeah, and it's getting higher. I quit smoking cigarettes. It was terrible. We both quit.
Alan Leatherwood: Did you have trouble...cause wish I could do it.
Don Everly: Oh God, it was difficult! Thought about it for two years. In two weeks, I know the difference. That's the beauty about it. In two weeks the desire goes away.
Alan Leatherwood: What artists do you dig right now?
Don Everly: I think there's a lag right now, a lull, Lately, let's see... It turned when the whales came out. I loved them... The Song of the Humpback Whales. And Nilsson. I think he's about my favorite. "The Point", not getting across to everyone was disappointing to me; I felt that. It was lost; That's RCA Victor; that's another thing -- but we we'll see.
"COUNTRY MUSIC HAS DISCOVERED HAIR SPRAY AND PUFFED SLEEVES." Don Everly
Alan Leatherwood: I've been listening to WSLR, the country station recently.
Don Everly: I listen to country music constantly. That's all I listen to now. I can't find other stations I can listen to all day without it driving me nuts.
Alan Leatherwood: Even country music is getting plastic. There's a country version of "Gypsies, Tramps and thieves" out. They're cutting country versions of AM garbage.
Don Everly: I know! I'll tell you what -- when country music decides to be tacky, it can really be tacky. Country music has discovered hair spray and puffed sleeves, and mod clothes. It's ridiculous. About five years late.
Alan Leatherwood: What do you think of Nashville versus Hollywood?
Don Everly: What's the difference, when you've got "Opryland" now? That's not a cry for nostalgia, but I mean "Opryland" and wax museums and Hank Williams, Jr. A barbecue just doesn't get it for me. Somehow it makes me feel cheap.
Alan Leatherwood: You may be in the wax museum someday; watch what you're saying.
Don Everly: I hope not. I hope I would have friends that would come in and desecrate the wax image.
End of interview. .....copyright by Alan Leatherwood