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Discovering An Everly Brothers Lost Recording

As a little boy, Don Everly of The Everly Brothers got his start in music on KMA radio in Shenandoah. Along with his father Ike and brother Pat, they had a weekly music show called "The Everly Family" on KMA from 6:00-6:30AM.
Courtesy of Bill Hillman
As a little boy, Don Everly of The Everly Brothers got his start in music on KMA radio in Shenandoah. Along with his father Ike and brother Phil, they had a weekly music show on KMA called "The Everly Family," which aired from 6 -6:30 a.m.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of The Everly Brothers until the death of Don Everly. Soon after his passing, Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe asked me to book some interviews to remember the legacy of the famous rock duo in Iowa.

After doing preliminary research and listening to some of their hits, I started searching for guests who could speak to The Everly Brothers' time in Shenandoah.

I was a little nervous about finding a historian who could tell this story. The Everly Brothers were only in Iowa for roughly 10 years, starting in the late 1940s. I eventually found The Everly Brothers Childhood Home. After several cold calls, I got in touch with Bill Hillman. Turns out, without Hillman’s work at the Childhood Home, a piece of Iowa history may have been lost.

Hillman not only got the Childhood Home moved to a new location, he also maintains the museum, gives tours and he helped put together a reunion concert in Shenandoah for The Everly Brothers in 1986. More than 8,500 people attended that concert.

When I was on the phone with Hillman learning about all of his work to preserve this history, we started talking about the role KMA radio played in the lives of a young Don and Phil Everly. Hillman told me a story about receiving a message from a long-time engineer at KMA a few years ago. Roger Peters, the engineer, found a recording of an Everly Brothers show on KMA radio from 1950. The original recording is on a record.

Radio stations back then used to record their shows and send them to advertisers to prove that they were playing their commercials. But for some unknown reason, this recording was not sent to an advertiser.

When Hillman told me about the recording, I told him that I wished there was a digital version of the recording to include on Talk of Iowa. Hillman then told me that Peters sent him a video of the record playing on his home setup. I hopped on FaceTime with Hillman and coached him through sending me the video to play on Talk of Iowa.

After extracting the audio and cleaning it up a bit, the recording was ready for broadcast. It would be the first time a recording of Don Everly as a child had been heard on an Iowa radio station in more than six decades.

Everly Video 2

To listen to the full recording, you can get in touch with The Everly Brothers Childhood Home.

As part of this year’s Shenfest and 150th anniversary of Shenandoah, music from The Everly Brothers will be performed and feature members of the Everly family at several events throughout the weekend.

Rick Brewer was a producer for IPR's Talk of Iowa and River to River