CENTRAL CITY, Ky. (1/4/14) The entire music world is in mourning today after the news of the death of Phil Everly yesterday at age 74.
Although Phil Everly was born in Chicago, he always called Muhlenberg County his home.
Marilyn Kirtley, who lives in Greenville, has been a fan and supporter of the Everly Brothers and their Muhlenberg roots for most of her life. She told SurfKY News that the death of Phil Everly has left her in shock.
"I was very saddened and surprised to hear of Phil's death." said Kirtley. "I knew he had been in poor health for several weeks. I was just unaware that it was this severe. Don and Phil were such a great team. We enjoyed having them here for the Everly Brothers Music Festival beginning in the late 1980s. Those memories will always be with me."
The Everly Brothers Homecoming Music Festival began in 1988 and continued each Labor Day weekend for more than a decade. The annual event drew thousands of fans each year from around the world. And because Don and Phil were loved by so many in the music field, a simple invitation from the brothers went a long way in bringing performers such as Chet Atkins, John Prine, The Kentucky Headhunters, Keith Urban and a laundry list of other superstars to Central City.
Kirtley was one of the many hard working, dedicated residents of the county who helped organize the annual event, and also wanted to make sure that people knew about Muhlenberg County's rich musical history.
"I've welcomed fans and made friends from all over the world, who share that common love of the Everly Brothers' unique sound," she said. "Last night, and this morning I've spent all my time answering emails from friends and fans from the Netherlands, England, and Australia about the sad passing of Phil. The Everly Brothers are just loved everywhere, as much as they are loved here in Muhlenberg County. They really are our sons."
Kirtley noted that the Everly musical heritage did not begin with Don and Phil.
"Don and Phil were a result of the Muhlenberg musical heritage." Kirtley said. "It goes back a long way. Their father, Ike Everly, was a thumbpicking legend here, along with Mose Rager and Merle Travis."
Kirtley said that the first time she met Don and Phil was long before the annual homecoming festival began.
"I first met Don and Phil when they were teenagers,” she said. “They were cousins of David Moore, who lived in Central City and who was a friend of my son, Rodney. The brothers were in town, and Rodney was still too young to drive so I took him to meet The Everly Brothers. They were just so nice, and this was at the peak of their popularity. This would have been in the mid to late 1950s sometime."
Kirtley recalls that her relationship with Don and Phil was rekindled when the duo agreed to participate in the yearly homecoming event.
"Originally, when several of us got together to organize the yearly homecoming concert, we also formed an Everly Brothers Fan Club." Kirtley remembered. "At first, we were informed by some individuals in Seattle that we could not form a club because they already had one. But Phil stepped in and gave us permission to form a club here in Muhlenberg County. He was always so very personable and caring when it came to helping out with the homecoming, or anything we needed. He never failed to respond when we asked for help."
Throughout the span of the yearly concerts, Kirtley said that the fan club became somewhat of a hospitality group.
"We would entertain as many as 100 or more fans from around the nation and the world. In fact, a couple from England stopped by my home this summer and stayed a few days. These are the types of friendships and fond memories that will last a lifetime," she said.
Kirtley added that friends have suggested that she make a recorded history of all she remembers about her times with Don and Phil.
"There are just so many great memories, so many wonderful times, I guess I could,” she said. “But today is a memory I wish I could forget. It is just such a sad day for me, and for so many, who loved and continue to love The Everly Brothers."
SurfKY News Reporter
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