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Kentucky town honors its music legends The Everly Brothers and John Prine


There are some new monuments to admire in Central City. Music legends John Prine and the Everly Brothers had deep ties to this small town in Western Kentucky's Muhlenberg County. Friday, the town unveiled three statues of these musicians. Derek Operle of member station WKMS was there.

DEREK OPERLE, BYLINE: The thumb-picking guitar technique was invented and perfected in the area by local musicians like Merle Travis and Ike Everly, father to Don and Phil.


THE EVERLY BROTHERS: (Singing) Bye bye love, bye bye happiness. Hello loneliness...

OPERLE: The pair's harmonies made them one of the biggest acts in early rock and roll. The dedication was held in the city of less than 6,000's downtown. Ted David Everly says that echoes of his relatives' music can be heard in the work of other pairs like Paul McCartney and John Lennon and Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.

TED DAVID EVERLY: Our beloved sons, Central City's own Everly Brothers, have either inspired directly or indirectly everybody in the music industry today.

OPERLE: Now, life-size bronze renderings of Don and Phil stand next to Prine, along with replicas of their guitars not far from the Muhlenberg Music Museum, where Sue Aubrey works now. As a teen, she worked in a restaurant and remembers the Everly Brothers' very nice manners.

SUE AUBREY: I think that's what caught my eye. And then later on when I started working down here, I got to know more about Every Brothers and their music. And it's something that's never going to be repeated, I don't think, in history.

OPERLE: Don Everly was born on the outskirts of the town. His younger brother Phil was born in Chicago, but the pair loved to come home to Kentucky and helped organize an annual music festival to benefit the community for more than a decade, often with Prine, whose parents were both from the area. After the dedication, musicians, including Prine's brother Billy, and members of Prime's touring band, paid tribute to the three local icons at a nearby amphitheater. David Hall, a military veteran from Muhlenberg County, came to listen.

DAVID HALL: It makes a person proud that they're from this area. That way of life is instilled in each one of these people around here, and we take care of each other and we love each other.

OPERLE: Rolling Stone has called Prine the Mark Twain of songwriting. Gloria and Phillip Walley of Central City agree.

PHILLIP WALLEY: Won't ever be another John Prine.

GLORIA WALLEY: And I love John Prine's stories. His music tells stories, and that's what I like about his music.

OPERLE: John Prine and Don Everly died in the last few years, Phil Every in 2014. Their statues stand just 20 minutes from where Paradise, a small coal mining community that Prine made famous in his song of the same name, once stood, and the river where his ashes were spread.


JOHN PRINE: (Singing) And Daddy, won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County, down by the Green River where Paradise lay?

OPERLE: For NPR News. I'm Derek Operle in Central City, Ky.


PRINE: (Singing) ...But you're too late in asking - Mr. Peabody's coal train has hauled it away. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Derek Operle
[Copyright 2024 WKMS]