Joining The Reviews Hub down the telephone line after a cross-country tour from Peterborough to Lowestoft with That’ll Be The Day, Trevor Payne is walking right back in history to tell the story of the Everly Brothers in his new show, Walk Right Back.
The idea of the show came to Trevor three years ago, when some of his fellow cast members from That’ll Be The Day were keen to explore this era of music in more detail. They hit on the Everly Brothers, mostly, he admits, because they hadn’t been ‘done’ yet. Trevor elaborates: “The story hadn’t been told before, not in the way we wanted anyway, so we were keen to work from there. It took us six months to find the right guys. They had to be brothers for a start because you just can’t replicate sibling harmony and incredibly we found these guys from an obscure little place. It was actually their dad who put us in touch with them, who sent us a clip. We invited them to a theatre in Woking where we were, and they got on stage and played some of the Everly songs, when they sung, we thought bingo!”
Aaron and Luke Wilson have the same age difference as Phil and Don Everly and bear more than just a passing resemblance to the iconic sibling duo. This was, according to Payne, a ‘lucky break’ for them. So how did these lads get into singing the Everly Brothers? “The boys were asked to sing an Everly’s song for their dad’s 50th birthday party. They had been singing in other forms before but mostly heavy metal and rock. They did this song and liked it so much that they then became infatuated with Phil and Don. They started working on them together, then we nursed and rehearsed them, worked a lot on the mannerisms. We didn’t want to present this as a regular tribute act, so we’ve done the classic putting the story in the first half but we’re telling the story through the songwriters, as opposed to the Everly’s themselves, which does make it a bit different. The husband and wife team, Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, suggested Bye Bye Love, which had been turned down by nearly 40 acts, including Elvis Pressley himself. The rest, as they say, is history. From then, the songwriting duo penned an incredible array of hits for the Brothers, including Wake Up Little Suzie and All I Have To Do Is Dream, giving them their first three massive hits. That’s really what cemented them into the Hall of Fame.”
What is compelling is how much a voyage of discovery the project would become for Payne and his team, not just for the paying audience. “We knew the music but knew nothing of Boudleaux and the influence he had. I’ll tell you one cracking story, Felice was hoovering at home one day and something was caught that kept clicking. She wrote a song called Take A Message to Mary and in the studio, the producer said something was missing. So, they brought in an empty Coke bottle and a screwdriver and they knocked the click using that! That’s what’s on the record and that’s what we do on stage! And it’s hilarious, because when you hear it you can say ‘Oh yes, that’s exactly the sound!'”
Payne talks through the company, each one an incredibly talented musician with a back story all of their own. What is clear is that to be involved in this show, you can’t just be a competent musician. As Payne goes through each member, there is a connection to the Everly Brothers; this is more than just a tribute to great musicians – it is a remembrance service that worships at the altar of rock and roll. He talks about gathering the cast together and watching intently the tiny mannerisms of Phil and Don to really get them down. Each instrument is an exact match to the originals, as both part of the story and of the sound.
The story of the Everly Brothers, Payne says, is the story of Rock and Roll. They rose to fame at 17 and soared into stardom before being killed off by The Beatles. Described as two sides of a coin, they were of course bound to disagree at times. The infamous reunion, where Phil smashed his guitar to smithereens, was followed by 10 years of silence where not a word was uttered between the two. In keeping with history, the second half of the show becomes the reunion concert and the whole story comes to its natural end.
For Trevor Payne, however, work doesn’t end with the Everly Brothers. His labour of love is That’ll Be The Day, a show performing nearly 300 shows a year across the country: “I always have to ask if it’s still entertaining people; if it’s still keeping them happy. So far, I think that it is. I’ve done 32 years of That’ll Be The Day, and there are only really a handful of acts that keep coming back every single year. What I do with the Stones has really become a feature of the show, because it’s not just the Jagger act as a musician, but as a stand-up comedian”.
However, his Cliff is pretty legendary too, and it would only be right to finish on that. “[He laughs] It’s hilarious. I was actually doing another show in Portugal and who was playing tennis outside? Cliff Richard! Someone told [the company of the show] to get a picture and so we did, though he asked to do it the following day when he wasn’t so sweaty! He was super though, just exactly as you’d expect. That was the start of quite a long association with him; we’ve done charity stuff together and probably worked together half a dozen times now. I was also lucky to play him in Phoenix Nights and then Peter Kay asked me to do Amarillo, so I’m in the music video as Cliff for that. I also directed the Cliff musical in London about 15 years ago which was just amazing”.
Trevor Payne lives and breathes music. He is an entertainer like no other and is a delight to speak to. What is clear from our conversation is that a mountain of effort has gone into making Walk Right Back a true and honest account of one of the most iconic sibling duos of all time.
Audiences are guaranteed a treat when they come to see this production, masterminded by a true gent and lovingly packaged for even the most discerning of music fans. This truly will be an unmissable evening.
Walk Right Backwill be at Dundee’s Caird Hall on 23 May 2018andtouring.
Fraser MacDonald | Image: Contributed