(Shenandoah) – Thirty-five years ago on a steamy, stormy July evening, rock legends Don and Phil Everly staged a memorable homecoming concert in Shenandoah.
Though both of the Everly Brothers are gone, family members are keeping their spirit alive. Edan Everly, son of the late Don Everly, returned to Shenandoah to help the community celebrate its 150th birthday during Shenfest weekend with a special concert at the Gladys Wirsig Jones Auditorium Saturday evening. Accompanied by his wife Keri and daughter Lily, Edan visited the Greater Shenandoah Historical Museum for a meet-and-greet event late Friday afternoon, then unveiled a historical marker at the Everly Brothers Childhood Home next door. And like his father and uncle in 1986, Edan received a key to the city from Mayor Dick Hunt. Edan made the homecoming trip with Don and Phil. He tells KMA News returning to Shenandoah years later is nostalgic.
“It’s kind of like being in the Twilight Zone,” said Edan. “Everyone’s so nice and friendly, and the fact that my daughter is the exact age I was here 35 years ago kind of makes me feel like I’ve come full circle – if that makes sense.”
Over the years, Edan heard stories from Don and Phil about their Shenandoah years – including memories of the live performances on KMA with their parents, Ike and Margaret Everly. Edan believes the southwest Iowa upbringing molded his father and uncle into one of the first superstar duos in rock history.
“I think it was probably boot camp for him,” he said. “Having to get up in the morning – we heard the stories, you know. I think he was exaggerating – he told us it was 5:30 – getting up in the morning, and having to do the radio show, you know. Then, they would have to sing and do this, then they would have to walk to school uphill five miles, both ways. It probably shaped who my father and uncle were – no doubt about it.”
Bill Hillman, owner of Shenandoah’s Depot Restaurant, spearheaded the Everly Brothers’ ’86 concert. Hillman says he was concerned Edan’s return trip was in jeopardy after his father Don’s passing in August.
“We started working on this a couple of years ago,” said Hillman. “You know, COVID got in the way, and this and that got in the way. And, when Don passed away, I worried that Edan might not want to come. He called and said, ‘yes, I want to come. In fact, I want to come more than ever.’ He just wanted to see people from Shenandoah. He has such great memories of being here in Shenandoah. He said he just needed that -- and the family needed that.”
For Edan, returning to perform in Shenandoah is both bittersweet, and a blessing.
“We dearly miss them,” said Edan. “We miss Phil, and my father has just passed. What do you say to that? You’ve got to deal with that. We had to deal with it with Phil. It’s heartbreaking. But, this is kind of the gift that keeps on giving – coming to Shenandoah, Iowa with my daughter. It’s wonderful.”
Hillman, who recently joined the Everlys in the Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, hopes Edan Everly’s visit helps rekindle memories of Don and Phil’s music, and solidifies Shenandoah’s place in rock music history.
“You can’t tell rock and roll history without telling the Everly Brothers’ history,” said Hillman. “And, you can’t tell the Everly Brothers’ history without telling Shenandoah, Iowa’s history, and the connection to two huge radio stations at the time. So, I like to feel like rock and roll music started right here in Shenandoah.”
Descendants of another music legend join Edan Everly on stage Saturday evening. The Killer Vees – featuring family members of the late Bobby Vee--- also perform at the 7 p.m. concert, along with special guests Daria Grace and Stephen Dibbs Preston.