Cas Walker’s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cas_Walker) explanation for firing the Everly Brothers from his local television show may have missed the mark just a bit. The two brothers had moved to Knoxville from Iowa in 1953, and their first professional job was on the Cas Walker TV show, broadcast from WROL’s studio in downtown Knoxville. Cas Walker was a well-known grocer, politician, and radio and television personality, but he had a tough time with this new rock and roll, and the Everly boys were not the last to encounter his limited musical tastes.
Don and Phil Everly lived in the Bearden/Sequoyah Hills area and attended West High School (Don graduated in 1955) before moving to Nashvillle to begin their storied recording and songwriting career that included performances in more than 700 cities. Phil passed away in January 2014, but Don still lives there. He has fond memories of his years in Knoxville, saying that “Knoxville is the first place that I really felt at home.”
The Everly Brothers music and style influenced the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, and many others and sold 40 million records. They had twelve Top Ten singles and are inductees in both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One of their best-selling records, “Cathy’s Clown,” was inspired by a West High classmate of Don Everly, Catherine Coe; the single sold over two million copies. They brought a unique style of gentle, tight harmonies coming from their country-western roots, and their not-quite-blues, not-quite-rockabilly style with a rocking beat influenced many famed musicians.
“The Everlys 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." -Sir Paul McCartney
Rolling Stone Magazine called the Everlys “the most important vocal duo in rock,” and Bob Dylan stated “We owe those guys everything. They started it all.” Other hits include “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Suzie” and “Bird Dog.” They signed the first million-dollar contract in the history of recorded music with Warner Brothers Records.
The Bearden and Sequoyah Hills neighborhoods join the Knoxville community in celebrating these musicians with a new pocket park at the corner of Kingston Pike and Forest Park Boulevard, a site that most recently housed a service station. The park overlooks the former location of the iconic Knoxville Drive-In Theatre that was popular in the 1950s and 60s and has already received major improvements. Bearden Council, City Parks and Recreation, TDOT, East Tennessee Community Design Center, Legacy Parks and Visit Knoxville are working together on the project. Council Representative Duane Grieve coordinated the efforts to obtain this high-visibility property and has directed City of Knoxville Community Improvement 202 Funds for initial landscaping of the site.
“The Bearden Council continues to help build their community. The Everly Brothers Park will be a great addition to the neighborhood.”
- Governor Bill Haslam
“Knoxville is proud to be the city that nurtured the Everly Brothers, and this commemorative park will be a great addition to the neighborhood.”
- Mayor Rogero
The recent landscaping and other improvements to the park are just the beginning. The facility will include stone paths, benches, a connection to the third Creek Greenway, and perhaps even an artistic commemorative tribute to Puil and Don Everly. For more information, call Bearden Council at 865.454.9475, email the group at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their website www.everlypark.org.