Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: The Everly Brothers, “Cathy’s Clown”
55 years this week, the sad story of how a girl named Cathy broke a poor boy’s heart and forced him to bid her farewell found its way to the top of the UK Singles chart.
Written by Don and Phil Everly, the music of “Cathy’s Clown” took its inspiration from a classical source: Ferde Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite.” Don Everly clarified the song’s origins in a 1982 interview with the Radio Times, explaining, “There’s a little marching section which was used for a Philip Morris commercial on the radio at the time and I was very taken by it. The lyric came from stories our father (Ike Everly) used to tell us about a kid who would taunt him coming home from school by saying ‘Mary had a little Ike’.”
“Cathy’s Clown” is remembered as one of the Everly Brothers’ greatest hits, and then some: not only was it a chart-topper in the UK, but it was the biggest hit single of their career in America, giving them their third US #1. In fact, it’s such a classic that it’s been covered by everyone from Reba McEntire to Dee Dee Ramone…or from Jan & Dean to the Meat Puppets, if you prefer. Whichever unlikely pairing you prefer, we think you’ll agree that there’s a pretty wide chasm between those musical artists. Heck, the song even earned a sequel of sorts, thanks to John Wesley Harding’s “Cathy’s New Clown.”
In other words, when Rolling Stone included it on their 2004 list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, they were spot on.