Special thanks to ThisDayinMusic.com.
In the late ’50s, pop music magic was made when one singing duo began working with one songwriting pair. The Everly Brothers (Phil and Don) would become one of the biggest acts in rock and roll history with the help of the married songwriting team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. In the space of two years, the Everlys would take six of the Bryants’ songs to the Top 10, including “All I Have to Do is Dream,” which hit #1 on this day in 1958.
Phil and Don Everly had grown up in a musical family. Their father, Ike, had his own radio show in Shenendoah, Iowa, and the boys would sing with their parents. The Everly Family performed shows locally when Phil and Don were youngsters in the 1940s. Eventually, Phil and Don became a brother act, both singing and playing guitar. As teenagers, they made a big fan of Chet Atkins, who was a family friend. Although Atkins had a relationship with RCA Records, he helped The Everly Brothers get a shot with Columbia Records in Nashville. Unfortunately, their 1956 debut single “Keep A’Lovin’ Me” flopped and the boys were dropped.
But Atkins didn’t lose faith in the brothers. Because they were also songwriters, he introduced them to Wesley Rose at Acuff-Rose publishing – who said if the boys signed as writers, he would find them a deal as recording artists. Sure enough, it happened when the Everlys were signed to the new Cadence Records label in early 1957. In the process, they began a partnership with Felice and Boudleaux Bryant – although it’s likely that no one had any idea what kind of success they would all achieve.
Diadorius Boudleaux Bryant was a Georgia-born fiddle player who met Matilda Genevieve Scaduto in 1945 while on tour in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The two began dating, got married and – somewhere in there – began writing songs together. Boudleaux was usually in charge of the tune while “Felice” (Boudleaux’s pet name for her) was responsible for the words.
As a songwriting team, the pair struggled for a little while, before Little Jimmy Dickens took their song “Country Boy” to #7 on the country charts in 1948. They moved to Nashville in 1950, and continued penning songs for country singers. But, it would take The Everly Brothers to bring them their biggest hits.
With the Everlys the new signees to Cadence Records, they chose to record the Bryants’ “Bye Bye Love” for their first single. Although rejected by more than 30 other artists (including Elvis Presley), “Bye Bye Love” became a smash hit – rising to #1 on the country charts, #2 on the pop charts and faring almost as well overseas. Before long, it was certified gold.
They say that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, but it did in Nashville in 1957, when the Everlys took the Bryants’ “Wake Up Little Susie” all the way to #1 on the pop charts and scored another gold record. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why the singing brothers would stick with the husband-and-wife songwriters. In doing so, everyone involved would land the biggest prize of their careers in 1958.
It’s rumored that it only took Felice and Boudleaux 15 minutes to write “All I Have to Do is Dream,” a tune with country leanings that (like “Little Susie”) tapped into the suggestive sexual ideas prevalent in rock and roll. Phil Everly would later say, “I remember hearing ‘All I Have to Do is Dream’ on an acetate with Boudleaux's version on it, and I said, at the time, they could have put Boudleaux’s out and it would have been a hit. It’s just a great, great song.”
The Everlys recorded the song in just two takes in March of ’58. Chet Atkins played the tremolo-style chords on the single. Released in April, it quickly shot up the charts, beginning its run at #1 on the pop charts on this day in 1958. To say that it was a smash hit would be an understatement. “All I Have to Do is Dream” sold more than a million copies, hit #1 in Canada and the U.K. and also earned the distinction to be the only single in history to hold the #1 spot on Billboard’s pop, country and R&B charts simultaneously.
The Everly Brothers would continue to have big, big hits in the ’60s (with and without the Bryants), but “All I Have to Do is Dream” clearly marks a zenith for the duo. The song’s legacy continues to this day. Widely considered one of the best tracks in the history of rock and roll, it was given a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2004 and was considered one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (which inducted the Everlys in its inaugural class in 1986).
As a side note, the single also helped bring another rock legend to prominence. The B-side to “All I Have to Do is Dream” was “Claudette” (which also charted well) – the first huge songwriting success for Roy Orbison. As a result, Orbison left Sun Records for a short stint at RCA and then Monument. In less than two years, he’d score a smash hit – “Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)” and become a rock and roll force all his own.