Many people, including fans, friends of Don or Phil, musicians who worked and traveled with them, and people who write about them are confused about where Don and Phil were “from.” The answer is NOT Kentucky.
Don was born in Kentucky and taken away as an infant. In his sixties, he owned a restaurant in Kentucky, but his residence has been in Nashville, Tennessee, from the mid-1970s until now.
Phil was born in Chicago, and he never lived in Kentucky. Never.
The Everlys were not really itinerant musicians. Some confusion results from the brothers’ stage act, which often featured “Kentucky” as an encore. Also, Don’s stage remarks sometimes included references to the family “traveling around, looking for work” and not being able to hold down jobs. Until Cas Walker fired The Everly Family around the beginning of Don’s senior year in high school, Ike and Margaret changed jobs by choice.
The facts are that the family was not quite as itinerant as Don’s stage remarks suggest. Ike and Margaret were from Kentucky. For most summers of their childhood, Don and Phil spent a few weeks in Kentucky with the extended family. However, during school years, the family was anchored in one location until Don graduated high school and Phil finished his sophomore year.
Many years in Tennessee. The Everly family lived in Chicago until Don and Phil were six and four, respectively. They lived in Iowa until the family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, just in time for Phil to begin high school and Don to begin his junior year in high school. When Don graduated, Margaret moved with her sons to Nashville, where they officially remained until Don and Phil signed with Warner Brothers.
During the Cadence years, both Don and Phil had addresses in Nashville (Phil’s was at Ike and Margaret’s house), but they were on the road or doing television work, much of it in New York City, more than at home.
Once The Everly Brothers signed with Warner Brothers in the early 1960s, Phil lived in Los Angeles until The Everly Brothers stopped performing, after which he bought a home about an hour south of Nashville and spent the bulk of his time there.
Some clarifications about radio work in Iowa. The Everly family spent roughly a year in Waterloo, Iowa, before moving on to Shenandoah on the other side of the state. There they resided for eight years, spending the “school year” working at the local radio stations and at other occasional jobs.
During the summers, the staff artists at the radio stations were not under contract, so the Everlys spent that time traveling around and looking for work. They took odd jobs, preferably musical appearances on radio stations or at public events, making their way slowly to Kentucky, where they visited extended family and old friends, and then working their way back to Iowa again.