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On the musical map: New marker highlights greatness of the Everly Brothers

The brothers lived in Knoxville in the mid 1950s, attending West High School. A pocket park honors their achievements.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Two rock 'n' roll legends are officially on the state's tourism map in Knoxville.

A new "Tennessee Music Pathways" marker was unveiled Monday morning at Everly Brothers Park with members of the late Don and Phil Everly's family in attendance.

"The Everly Brothers helped shape Tennessee's rich musical heritage," said Commissioner Mark Ezell of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

The marker highlights for park visitors the brothers' great successes in rock, pop and country music.  They reached the height of their popularity in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but their influence resonates today.

The brothers were part of the first class of inductees in 1986 into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, -- along with Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino and a few others.

Credit: WBIR
Dennis Owen, Duane Grieve and Everly family members on Monday morning at the park marker dedication.

Their hits included "Wake Up, Little Susie" and "Bye, Bye Love". They were friends with Buddy Holly and toured with him in the late 1950s. After Holly died in a plane crash in 1959 in Iowa, Phil Everly traveled to Lubbock, Texas, to be with Holly's family at his funeral.

With their shimmering, crystal-clear harmonies, the Everlys inspired generations of great artists including the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Simon and Garfunkel. Paul McCartney namechecked them in his song "Let 'Em In" during his Wings period and wrote a hit song for them in the 1980s, "On the Wings of a Nightingale".

Graham Nash, part of Crosby, Stills and Nash, was delighted to be honorary chairman of the Kingston Pike park during its development, recruiting some of the best known musicians in the world to contribute quotes now preserved and displayed on plaques.

"Pathway" markers are posted across Tennessee, designed to encourage people to stop and learn about great figures in music history.

The park itself was more than 10 years in the making and represented a lot of hard work by the Bearden Council, said Duane Grieve, who along with Terry Faulkner has been among the park's greatest champions.

An old gas station once sat on the site. It was dedicated a few years ago and now is the center of the neighborhood's annual Christmas tree lighting.

Don and Phil Everly lived with their parents Ike and Margaret in Knoxville in the early to mid 1950s. Both boys went to nearby West High School.

Elder brother Don graduated in 1955 and then headed to Nashville to pursue his dream of being a performer. Phil, about two years younger than Don, joined him.

Don died in 2021 at age 84. Phil died in 2014 at age 74.

Phil's widow, Patti Everly, and Don's oldest child, Venetia Ember Everly, and granddaughter Arabella attended Monday's dedication. They said they appreciated the recognition for the brothers.

Credit: WBIR
Visit Knoxville's Kim Bumpas at the park Monday.

Venetia Everly said her grandmother, who died in December at age 102, never forgot Knoxville.

"She talked so fondly of Knoxville, what a great family town it was," Venetia Everly said.

Grieve recalled pitching the idea of the park to Nash when he came to Knoxville for a concert a few years ago.

"He jumped right on it," the architect and former Knoxville councilmember said. 

Nash alerted fellow musicians, who happily contributed testimonials. Within days, emails started arriving in Grieve's in-box with quotes from Elton John, McCartney, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton and others.

There is no other monument in the world to the Everlys quite like Knoxville's.

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