Hole Notes with Dale Turner: The Signature Open-G-Tuned Rhythm Style of Don Everly
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In the late Fifties, the Everly Brothers—Don (lead vocals) and Phil (high harmony vocals)—scored big on the Billboard pop and country charts with hits like “Bye Bye Love” and “Wake Up Little Susie,” efforts which, along with the work of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and others, helped shape early rock and roll.
The Everly Brothers were also the defining harmony-vocal group of the era, influencing acts like the Beach Boys, the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel.
The brothers’ musical pedigree ran deep: their guitar-playing father, Ike Everly, was a major influence on the famed fingerpicking style of fellow Kentuckian and family friend Merle Travis. (Chet Atkins was also a family friend.) Don Everly, the older of the two brothers, turned heads on his own with his rock-solid acoustic rhythm playing.
No less than Keith Richards has gone on record calling Don “one of the best rhythm guitarists in the world” and citing his use of open G tuning (low to high, D G D G B D)—a key component of Richards’ own sound—as an influence. Let’s examine some of Don’s signature, influential acoustic guitar style.