In the summer of 1958 its tune and unforgettable harmony helped propel the Everly Brothers to the most successful harmonic duo of their time. And fifty years later, they’re still at the top of that list.
When the brother duo of Phil and Don Everly cut All I Have To Do Is Dream in March of 1958, an RCA studio manager named Chet Atkins called it one of the easiest songs ever recorded, and proclaimed modestly, “That’s gonna’ be a real good record.” In the recording embedded here, Atkins is the guitarist heard in the background.
He wasn’t wrong. It was released just a month later, in April, and throughout the summer of 1958 All I Have To Do Is Dream began to soar on the American record charts, the only single ever to be at No. 1 on all of the Billboard singles charts simultaneously.
Written by the husband and wife team of Felice and Bouldeaux Bryant, in 2003 it was named one of the thousand best songs of all time and a year later achieved Grammy Hall of Fame status. In the years after the Everly Brothers version it was recorded by numerous artists, but none could ever match the harmonic quality of Phil and Don. Rolling Stone Magazine would write, “Perhaps even a more powerful sound than Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers melded country with the emerging sound of 50s rock & roll.”
Born in Kentucky, and raised in Shenandoah, Iowa, the Everlys would later move to Nashville to complete high school. Their talent was immediately recognized and within a year, 1956, they recorded their first hit, Bye, Bye Love, also written by the Bryant team. Wake Up Little Susie, another Bryant song, soon followed and the duo signed with Cadence Records.
But long-standing feuds with manager Wesley Rose, and rumors about increasing drug use was complicit with a drop-off of popularity by the mid-60s. And for a time the two brothers split altogether to pursue individual solo careers. By the mid-70s they were officially broke up, only to reunite a decade later for a highly successful reunion tour with a London debut that drew sold-out audiences.
But time and abuse had taken its toll, and health issues became a problem. They performed only periodically, and on January 3, 2014, Phil Everly died from his life-long cigarette habit at age 74.
They’re given credit for being instrumental to the sound and rise of following groups, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, and particularly their influence can be heard in the sound of Simon and Garfunkel.
But in the summer of 1958, this was the sound that everyone wanted to hear. All you had to do…was turn on the radio.