Never knew what I missed

The Everlys strike gold at the casino

Phil and Don Everly proved nobody else in rock’n’roll does it quite like they do last Saturday night at Feather Falls Casino.

Phil and Don Everly proved nobody else in rock’n’roll does it quite like they do last Saturday night at Feather Falls Casino.

photo by Sara Sipes

The Everly Brothers
Feather Falls Casino, Oroville, Saturday, July 21

If you missed the Everly Brothers at Feather Falls Casino in Oroville last weekend, you lost out on some absolutely great music. From the very first notes, those classic harmonies were still beautifully evident. Phil and Don’s voices only barely suggested the wear of time, still fitting together as perfectly as stones in an ancient Incan wall. You could see the intensity on their faces as they hit those notes.

Backed by a crack band of Nashville musicians, the singing siblings still have what it takes. Off-the-cuff, personable and engaging, both dressed in black suits with red, Western-accented braiding, faces a bit more lined, dark hair streaked with gray, Phil and Don were as enthusiastic to the crowd and the material as they must have been over 40 years ago when they scored their first hits.

And many of those hits were present: “Bye Bye Love,” “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” “Crying In the Rain,” “When Will I Be Loved,” “(’Til) I Kissed You,” “Cathy’s Clown,” “Wake Up Little Suzie,” and “Let It Be Me.” The duo also treated us to a few acoustic Kentucky ballads gleaned from their coal-miner-turned-entertainer father and a couple of rousing rock ‘n’ roll covers, originally penned and performed by Roy Orbison and Little Richard.

After two opening songs (the first one nobody I was with recognized, the second “Man of Kentucky"), Don Everly stepped back up to the mike and said, “I’m still Don, he’s still Phil, and we’re still the Everly Brothers.” They then treated us to the Warners-era ballad, “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad),” those voices producing that sweet adolescent sting perfectly accenting the heartbreak of the lyrics. Almost more than their material, the Everlys’ voices contain their genuine genius. In fact, ultimately, theirs are the voices that launched a thousand harmonizers, including Lennon and McCartney, Simon and Garfunkel, Edmunds and Lowe, and countless more. Yet, as is often the case, the originals are best (even fellow ‘50s star Chuck Berry years later proclaimed the Everlys’ harmonies “better than the Beatles'.” And he wasn’t putting the mop-tops down).

The Everlys and their band tore through a rocking rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Claudette,” then introduced their next number by talking about the young lady they’d met in New York who’d given a song to them. The brothers produced an absolutely flawless version of the Carole King and Gerry Goffin-penned “Crying in the Rain.” “Phil wrote this one,” Don announced, and they let fly an upbeat, somewhat countrified “When Will I Be Loved,” having a bit of fun with the a cappella lines at the song’s conclusion.

Don then wryly warned us to “Get ready for some sad songs. … It’s the Everly medley,” the centerpiece of which was a heart-achingly fine “Love Hurts.”

Even with all the great hits dominating the evening’s entertainment, the actual high point was when the brothers, backed only by their own acoustic guitars and a mandolin player, performed music from their early childhood in a small Kentucky town. “These are songs our daddy taught us,” Don said. The singing, playing and feeling of those three pieces, the most readily recognizable being the Delmore Brothers’ “Blues Stay Away From Me,” were among the most satisfying of the evening.

Of special note were the excellent musicians backing the Everlys, who included former British session drummer Tony Newman, guitarist Jamie Hartford—son of famed Nashville session guitarist John Hartford—and renowned pedal steel player Buddy Emmons.