The Everly Brothers might be stepfather to the Beatles.
These two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acts are linked by music, style and harmony. Paul McCartney and John Lennon, in the early days of the Fab Four, copped many sounds from Phil and Don Everly.
“The Everly Set” is an Everly Brothers’ tribute show featuring Sean Altman and Jack Skuller. They came to Savannah Center on Thursday and couldn’t resist showcasing the musical bloodlines between the Beatles and Everlys.
Two songs were mashed together by Altman and Skuller to show the relationship: “Cathy’s Clown” by the Everly Brothers in 1960, and about three years later, “Please Please Me” an early hit by the Beatles.
At one point the Beatles thought of calling themselves The Foreverly Brothers, Paul McCartney once said. John Lennon said “Cathy’s Clown,” was part of the inspiration for “Please Please Me.”
“The Beatles were devoted to the Everly Brothers, so we’re going to do something different on this one,” Altman said.
He combined with Skuller for sweet, Everly-sounding harmony on “Cathy’s Clown.” Then, it slowly morphed into the English beat Beatle sound of “Please Please Me,” with what allmusic.com called “the use of those (Everly Brothers) thick descending harmony vocals and inventive stuttering tempos.”
Put it all together and you have the reason why the Everly Brothers remain one of the most ground-breaking and influential acts in music history.
Altman and Skuller opened the concert by romping through the rockabilly number, “Bye Bye Love.”
“We’re not here to impersonate the Everly Brothers; we’re here to approximate them,” Skuller said.
It was that way on such songs as, “I Kissed You,” “Walk Right Back,” and a couple of lesser-known numbers, “Donna, Donna” and “Claudette” – a song Roy Orbison wrote for his wife.
“The Everly Brothers were great singers, but for a long time they couldn’t stand each other,” said Altman, founder of singing group Rockapella, who also composed the theme for Carmen Sandeigo.
“We’re trying to be like the Everly Brothers up here, but Jack and I get along great,” Altman said. Skuller has worked for Disney and also won the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame’s Holly Prize for songwriting.
These guys have a deep appreciation for the Everly Brothers’ music and history. Altman told how the Everly Brothers during a career lull, joined the Marines. Both appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in Marine Uniforms and their once greasy long hair was cut down nearly to the skull.
“That night they sang “Crying in the Rain” on the Sullivan show and their careers took off again,” Altman said. He and Skuller sang “Crying in the Rain” and melded it with a tender version of “Dream,” in what was one of the musical highlights of the evening.
“I grew up in the 70s and I always thought “Love Hurts” belonged to the rock band Nazareth – until I heard the Everly Brothers version,” Altman said. “It’s a beautiful song.”
He and Skuller did justice to the number and added more emotional impact by combining it with another Everly Brothers’ romantic standard, “Devoted to You.”
In the early 80s, Paul McCartney helped fuel another Everly Brothers’ comeback when he wrote “On the Wings of a Nightingale,” for the duo.
For McCartney, in a way, it was like coming full circle.
“Phil Everly was one of my great heroes,” McCartney wrote in 2014 when Phil Everly died. “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.”
You didn’t have to be a Beatle to appreciate the Everlys.
“I think I was in eighth grade when I first heard the Everly Brothers, and I still like their songs,” said Villager Gary Hendrixson, who attended the show with his wife, Linda.
“Their music is special,” Linda said. “It’s the harmony, and, unlike today’s music, you can understand the words. It still moves you.”