#54: Milk Train by the Everly Brothers

City: Calgary, AB
Radio Station: CKXL
Peak Month: November 1968
Peak Position in Calgary ~ #7
Peak position in Vancouver ~ did not chart
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube: “Milk Train
Lyrics: “Milk Train

Isaac Donald “Don” Everly was born in 1937 and Phillip Jason “Phil” Everly was born in 1939. Don was born in Muhlenberg County in Kentucky, and Phil was born in Chicago. Their dad, Ike, had been a coal miner who decided to pursue music as a guitar player. From the mid-40s Ike and his wife, Margaret, sang as a duo in Shanendoah, Iowa. Later they included their sons “Little Donnie and Baby Boy Phil,” on local radio stations KMA and KFNF. In time they were billed as The Everly Family. In 1953, the family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. Family friend and musician Chet Atkins got a record deal for the Everly Brothers with RCA Victor in 1956. However, their first single release was a commercial failure and they were dropped from the label. Next, Atkins got them connected with Archie Bleyer, and the boys were signed to Cadence Records. In 1957, their first single on the label, “Bye Bye Love“, became a million-seller and launched their career.

The Everly Brothers followed with “Wake Up Little Susie”, “Bird Dog”, “Problems”, “Take A Message To Mary” and “All I Have To Do Is Dream”. After recording “Wake up Little Susie,” Don and Phil embarked on a 78-city tour that began on September 6th and ran through the 24th of November, 1957. They shared the stage with Chuck Berry, Buddy Knox, The Drifters, Paul Anka, Fats Domino, The Crickets, and Eddie Cochran. Their tour included a concert date at the Georgia Auditorium in Vancouver on October 23rd.

In the fall of 1957, the Everly Brothers also appeared in concert in Toronto, Regina (SK), Ottawa and Montreal.

In 1957 and 1958 the Everly Brothers toured extensively with Buddy Holly and The Crickets. In mid-October 1958, the Everly Brothers released a single titled “Problems”. The B-side, “Love Of My Life”, also charted into the Top Ten in Vancouver.

When Buddy Holly died in a plane crash in rural Iowa on February 3, 1959, Phil Everly attended the funeral and sat with Holly’s family. Don did not attend, saying, “I couldn’t go to the funeral. I couldn’t go anywhere. I just took to my bed.”

In 1959 Don Everly wrote “(Till) I Kissed You”, and later “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)”. The brothers biggest hit, “Cathy’s Clown”, was one they co-wrote in 1960. “Cathy’s Clown” became their third number one hit, and The Beatles based the harmonies from the song to write “Please Please Me”. Additionally, Phil Everly wrote “When Will I Be Loved”.

By 1961 Don and Phil Everly had racked up eleven Top Ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100. One of these in 1961 was “Ebony Eyes”.

In October 1961 the Everly Brothers enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. That same month they had a minor hit with “Muskrat”. In 1961, the brothers had a falling out with Wesley Rose during the recording of “Temptation”. Rose was perturbed that Don and Phil were recording a song Rose hadn’t published. Since Rose wouldn’t be paid publishing royalties, he tried to prevent the single from being released. When the Everly Brothers went ahead and released “Temptation”, later in 1961 they were prevented from collaborating with any Acuff-Rose songwriters. These included Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, as well as Don and Phil Everly themselves, who were still contracted to Acuff-Rose as songwriters and had written several of their own hits. Subsequently, Don and Phil recorded some songs credited to Jimmy Howard a pseudonym they used to avoid a dispute with Acuff-Rose publishing.

Seeking new songwriters, they recorded “Walk Right Back” by Sonny Curtis (of the Crickets), “Crying In The Rain” by Carole King and Howard Greenfield, “Ebony Eyes” by John D. Loudermilk. “Walk Right Back” and “Ebony Eyes” were released as a double-sided hit. In 1962, prior to “Temptation” which was facing obstacles getting airplay. The Everly Brothers single “That’s Old Fashioned” was composed by the Elvis Presley songwriters Bill Giant, Bernie Baum and Florence Kaye (“You’re The Devil In Disguise” and numerous songs for films including Roustabout, Viva Las Vegas, Fun in Acapulco, It Happened at The World’s Fair, Girl Happy, Spinout, Kissing’ Cousins and others.

On February 18, 1962, the Everly Brothers appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and performed “Jezebel” and “Crying in the Rain” while dressed in their blue Marine Corps uniforms. It was their only appearance between October 1961 and the end of 1962 when they were stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County. Their absence from touring and television appearances coincided with a decline in sales and interest in the Everly Brothers.

The dance craze – “The Twist”, “The Loco-Motion”, The Mashed Potato” and others, the surfing sound, the bossa nova and the British Invasion were on the ascendant. The Everly Brothers and many other recording artists from the late 50s struggled to adapt. Between 1963 and 1973 the pair released 30 singles. Of these, none made the Top 30 and only three made the Billboard Hot 100. One of these was “Milk Train”.

Milk Train by the Everly Brothers
“Milk Train” was written by Tony Romeo. He was born in He began his career as a recording engineer with MGM. He began writing songs in the late 50s. The most notable hits he penned are “I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family in 1970, “Indian Lake” recorded in 1968 by the Cowsills, and “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” for Lou Christie in 1969. Peaches & Herb, Adam Faith, Tony Bennett, Brooklyn Bridge, the Seekers, Paul Anka, Wayne Newton and Al Martino are among the recording artists who’ve recorded a Tony Romeo tune. Tony Romeo died in 1995 at the age of 56 of a heart attack.

“Milk Train” is a song about a guy who lived in a “railroad shack” in a “sleepy town.” Every Sunday, the ‘Milk Train’ stopped, and had on board some fancy folks from the city. This included one “fine” lady who let this guy “get to know her a while.” But now the Milk Train doesn’t stop outside his door. In her absence, he confides, “I dream of the day she’ll come back this way, and let me get to know her again. Ooohh, like way back when.”

“Milk Train” peaked at #3 in La Crosse (WI), and #7 in Calgary, spending nine weeks on the CKXL Double Your Pleasure Survey.

Though the Everly Brothers were no longer on the top of the charts, they continued to perform live. In 1968 the pair came to Vancouver. They did shows at Isy’s Supper Club at 1136 West Georgia Street for ten nights in a row. Isy’s poster ran with this pitch:

Isy’s Supper Club
OCT.16 to 26
OF 1968
Warner Bros. Recording Stars

In 1970 the Everly Brothers had a summer variety show on ABC-TV titled Johnny Cash Presents the Everly Brothers.  Among their featured guests were Linda Ronstadt and Stevie Wonder. Don Everly released an unsuccessful solo album the following year. On June 4, 1972, the Everly Brothers appeared in concert at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver. They also performed in concert for the first time in Calgary at the Jubilee Auditorium on June 3, ’72, and returned to the same venue in Calgary on March 21, 1973.

Lacking any direction, they scheduled a farewell performance on July 14, 1973, at Knott’s Berry Farm in Southern California. While they were performing, Phil smashed his guitar and left the stage, leaving Don to play the final songs in their set to a stunned audience. Beneath the surface the two had sharply different political views. Aside from their music, they had little in common regarding their outlook on life.

In 1983 the brothers buried the hatchet after their father’s funeral to perform a reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, The next year they released a single written by Paul McCartney titled “On The Wings Of A Nightingale” which peaked at #50 on the Billboard Hot 100. UK. In 1986 the Everly Brothers provided backing vocals for the title song on Paul Simon’s Graceland album. And on July 10, 1986 in Calgary, and July 13, 1986, the Everly Brothers performed at the Expo Theatre in Vancouver.

The Everly Brothers returned to Calgary to perform again in 1989 and 1991.

In 1994 “All I Have To Do Is Dream” made it into the Top 20 of the UK singles chart, with vocals by Phil Everly and Cliff Richard. In 1997 they received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. They were also given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Don and Phil Everly toured with Simon & Garfunkel as part of their Old Friends Tour. During the concerts they performed in the middle of the show. The tour involved 72 dates in the United States, Canada and Europe, between October 2003 and July 2004.

In 2014 Phil Everly, a longtime smoker, died of lung disease at the age of 74. The Everly Brothers close harmony style has been credited as a musical influence by the Beach Boys, The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, The Bee Gees, Neil Young and The Hollies.

April 27, 2024
Ray McGinnis

Kurt Loder, “The Everly Brothers: The Rolling Stone Interview: Thirty Years of Heart-melting Music and Heart-wrenching Sadness,” Rolling Stone, May 8, 1986.
Everly Brothers – Concerts, Canada,” setlist.fm.
Tony Romeo, Songwriter, 56,” New York Times, June 26, 1995.

Milk Train by the Everly Brothers

CKXL 1140-AM Calgary (AB) Top Ten | November 16, 1968

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