BY ELLIOT STEPHEN COHEN
Back in 1968, producer Paul Rothchild was recording demos for a new trio consisting of Stephen Stills, David Crosby and John Sebastian. When Sebastian decided to drop out, Rothchild suggested that the two best harmony singers to try for were Phil Everly and Graham Nash. As history has borne out, there was never a Crosby, Stills and Everly. Forty-five years later, Graham Nash, now 72, acknowledges, "What an incredible compliment."
Phil Everly, who passed away on January 3 from pulmonary heart disease, was part of a duo with his older brother Don who created the iconic harmonies heard on such hits as "Bye, Bye, Love,” "Wake Up Little Susie" and "All I Have To Do Is Dream." The Everly Brothers influenced generations of performers like Graham Nash who remembered those harmonies when he co-founded The Hollies and, later, became a member of Crosby, Stills and Nash. The veteran musician who is also an accomplished photographer and painter and whose autobiography, "Wild Tales," was released last year, explains how Phil Everly changed his life.
EXAMINER: What was the first Everly Brothers record you heard on British radio?
NASH: The first time was even better than that. It was 1957. I was 15 years old and me and my friend Alan Clarke, who later formed The Hollies with me, went to this schoolgirls' dance. As soon as we entered the place and walked across the ballroom floor, "Bye, Bye, Love" came over the speakers, louder than s... It was just unbelievable. I mean, Alan and I had been singing together since we were six, so we kind of knew what two-part harmony sounded like, but this was so incredibly different.
EXAMINER: When and where did you first meet them?
NASH: It was April 22 of 1960, when they came to play in Manchester. Beforehand, Alan and I had already decided that not only were we going to see the show, we were also determined to meet them. So, after the show, we went to the best hotel in Manchester where we figured they would be staying. We waited outside and, sure enough, 'bingo.' Around one in the morning, here they come. Alan and I knew we had missed our last bus, and we were facing a pretty long walk home, but we didn't care. We got to meet our heroes, The Everly Brothers.
EXAMINER: Now, of course, in 1966 you had the opportunity of working with them on an album called "Two Yanks In England."
NASH: Yes, (The Hollies) were playing The London Paladium, which was kind-of like the British Ed Sullivan Show. We had just finished our soundcheck and were backstage, when the phone rings and our road manager hands it to me and says, 'It's Phil Everly.' I said, 'Come on Rod, don't f... with me,' He goes, 'No, it's really Phil Everly.' So, I pick up the phone and Phil says, 'Me and Don are in town to make an album. Do you have any songs for us?' Well, we had, and what an incredible experience. Only six years after meeting them as teenagers hanging outside their hotel, me and Alan are actually recording with The Everly Brothers who are singing our songs! What an absolute thrill for me.
EXAMINER: Any other special reminisces of The Everlys?
NASH: Let's cut now to 1992. I'm staying in this hotel in Toledo, Ohio, where me and David and Stephen are going to be playing in this hall. I pick up the phone and it's Phil Everly. He goes, 'The hall you're playing in tomorrow, we're playing tonight. Do you want to come to the show?' Well, of course I do, so all of us head there for the soundcheck, and afterward we're someplace eating rubber chicken like most rock and roll bands do, after a soundcheck, and Don looks at me and says, 'So, what are you gonna sing with us?' I gotta tell you, I was so excited, I was f....in' dying. I was so excited at the prospect of singing onstage with The Everly Brothers. I have a cassette of me singing three-part with them that absolutely kills me to this day. I wanted to be great that night. I wanted to pay them back for how important their music was to my life.
EXAMINER: How would you sum up The Everly Brothers' greatest legacy?
NASH: Their haunting, mystical, beautiful sound is a sum total of being actual brothers. There's nothing like brothers singing together. It was in their DNA. They'd been listening to each other since they were like three or four years old. I mean, me and David are pretty good, but we aint't The Everly Brothers. Since Phil's passing, I've been watching YouTube videos of theirs for days now. I'm watching the phrasing, the body language, the breathing. They were absolutely brilliant. Without The Everly Brothers there might not have been Beatles. There may not have been Beach Boys. There might not have been Hollies or CSN. That's very true.