Brother Duos

Don and Phil Everly recorded their first hit, “Bye Bye Love,” in 1957. The song made it into top chart positions on both the pop and country charts. They were essentially part of the brother duet trend in country music which began as early as the mid-1920s and saw its greatest flowering in the 1930s.

Below is a list of the brother duet acts in country music that I have found so far. I will keep adding to the list as I chase down all of the information. “First recording” means the first recording session. I also have a list of male duos that are not brothers.

Here’s a map that pinpoints the birthplaces of these duets.


View Brother Duets in a larger map

You can view videos of some of these acts on my YouTube playlist. A good sampling of these acts can be found on Are You from Dixie? Great Country Brother Teams of the 1930s (RCA 8417-2-R).

Allen Brothers
Austin Allen (b. Monteagle Mountain, TN; d. 1/5/1959, Williamston, SC)
Lee Allen (b. Monteagle Mountain, TN; d. 2/24/1981, Lebanon, TN)
First recording: April 7, 1927, Columbia
Noteworthy songs: “Bow Wow Blues,” “Skippin’ and Flyin’,” “Jake Walk Blues,” “Roll Down the Line”
Instruments: Austin on guitar, Lee on kazoo
Vocal style: Austin sang lead, Lee occasionally added tenor harmony above Austin’s lead. Of the nearly 90 sides they recorded, approximately 17 of those are vocal duos.
Read more about them here.

McGee Brothers 
Kirk McGee (b. 5/1/1894, Franklin, TN)
Sam McGee (b. 11/4/1898)
First recording (as a brother duo): May 11, 1927, Vocalion, New York City
Noteworthy songs:
Instruments: Kirk played fiddle, mandolin, and guitar and Sam played guitar.
Vocal style: In most of the recordings made by Sam and Kirk together, Kirk sings. Three of their recordings, though, are vocal duets: “C-H-I-C-K-E-N spells Chicken,” “”Rufus Blossom,” and “Brown’s Ferry Blues.”
For more information, see the Bluegrass Messengers blog.

Delmore Brothers
Alton Delmore (b. 12/25/1908, Elkmont, AL; d. 6/8/1964)
Rabon Delmore (b. 12/3/1916, Elkmont, AL; d. 12/4/1952)
First recording: October 28, 1931, Columbia
Noteworthy songs: “Brown’s Ferry Blues,” “Big River Blues,” “Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar,” “Blues Stay Away from Me”
Instruments: Alton on guitar, Rabon playing lead on a tenor guitar
Vocal style: Alton usually sang lead, though they would often switch high and low harmony parts. They sometimes yodeled in 2-part harmony.
For more information, see the Delmore Brothers website, maintained by Alton Delmore’s youngest daughter, Debby.

Shelton Brothers
Other performing names: Lone Star Cowboys, Sunshine Boys
Bob Attlesey (b. 7/4/1909, Reilly Springs, TX; d. 11/1986)
Joe Attlesey (b. 1/27/1911, Reilly Springs, TX; d. 12/26/1980)
First recording: 8/4/1933, Columbia as Lone Star Cowboys; 2/22/1935, Decca as Shelton Brothers
Noteworthy songs: “Just Because,” “Deep Elem Blues”
Instruments:
Vocal style:

Callahan Brothers
Homer (Bill) Callahan (b. 3/28/1912, Madison County, NC; d. 9/2002, Dallas, TX; obit)
Walter (Joe) Callahan (b. 1/27/1910, Madison County, NC; d. 9/10/1971, Asheville, NC)
First recording: 1/2/1934, Banner
Noteworthy songs:
Instruments:
Vocal Style: Best remembered for their duet yodeling.
Entry in the All Music Guide

Blue Sky Boys
Bill Bolick (b. 10/28/1917, Hickory, NC; d. 3/13/2008; obit)
Earl Bolick (b. 11/16/1919, Hickory, NC; d. 4/19/1998)
First recording: 1936
Noteworthy songs: “Sunny Side of Life,” “Can’t You Hear That Nightbird Crying?”, “Are You from Dixie?”
Instruments: Bill on mandolin, Earl on guitar
Vocal style: Earl sang baritone, Bill sang tenor.
Entry in the All Music Guide 

Monroe Brothers
Charlie Monroe
Bill Monroe (b. 9/13/1911, Rosine, KY; d. 9/9/1996, Springfield, TN)
First recording: 2/17/1936, Bluebird
Noteworthy songs: “What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul?”, “Nine Pound “Hammer,” “Feast Here Tonight,” “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” “My Long Journey Home”
Instruments:
Vocal style: Charlie sang lead, Bill sang tenor (high) harmony
Entry in the All Music Guide
Liner Notes to The Monroe Brothers Vol 1: What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul?

Dixon Brothers
Howard Briten Dixon (b. 6/19/1903, Darlington, SC; d. 3/24/1961)
Dorsey Murdock Dixon (b. 10/14/1897, Darlington, SC; d. 4/17/1968)
First recording: 2/12/1936, Bluebird
Noteworthy songs: “Down with the Old Canoe”
Instruments: Dorsey finger-style guitar, Howard Hawaiian-style steel guitar
Vocal style:

Carlisles
First recording:
Noteworthy songs:
Instruments:
Vocal style:

Anglin Brothers
Other names: Anglin Twins, Anglin Twins & Red
Jack Anglin
Jim Anglin
First recording: 11/5/1937
Noteworthy songs:
Instruments:
Vocal style:
They made a few recordings with Red Anglin as a trio.

Bailes Brothers
First recording:
Noteworthy songs:
Instruments:
Vocal style:

York Brothers
Leslie York (b. 8/23/1917, Louisa, KY; d. 2/21/1984)
George York (b. 2/10/1910, Louisa, KY; d. 7/1974)
First recording: 2/26/1941, Decca
Noteworthy songs:
Instruments:
Vocal style: melody in lower part in the two samples I listened to

Louvin Brothers
Ira Loudermilk (b. 4/21/1924, Henagar, AL; d. 6/20/1965, Williamsburg, MO)
Charlie Loudermilk (b. 7/7/1927, Henagar, AL)
First recording: between 1945 and 1949, Apollo Records
Noteworthy songs: “When I Stop Dreaming,” “Cash on the Barrel Head”
Instruments: Ira on mandolin, Charlie on guitar
Vocal style: Ira sang tenor, noted as being fairly high; Charles sang lead (melody tenor)
Click here for more information on the Louvin Brothers.

Stanley Brothers
Other names: Clinch Mountain Boys
Ralph Stanley (b. 2/25/1927, Stratton, Dickenson Co., VA)
Carter Stanley (b. 8/25/1925, Stratton, Dickenson Co., VA; d. 12/1/1966)
First recording:
Noteworthy songs:
Instruments: Carter on guitar, Ralph on banjo
Vocal style: Carter on lead, Ralph on harmony with high tenor voice. On some of their Columbia recordings, they added a third, even higher part (Pee Wee Lambert).
Click here for more information.

Lilly Brothers
Other names: Lonesome Holler Boys
Charles Everett Lilly (b. 7/1/1924, Clear Creek, WV)
Mitchell Burt Lilly (b. 12/14/1921, Clear Creek, WV)
First recording: 1948
Noteworthy songs:
Instruments: Everett played mandolin, banjo and fiddle; Bea played guitar
Vocal style:

Wilburn Brothers
Virgil Doyle Wilburn (b. 7/7/1930, Hardy, AR; d. 10/16/1982)
Thurman Theodore Wilburn (b. 11/30/1931, Hardy, AR;
First recording:
Noteworthy songs: “I’m So in Love with You,” “Trouble’s Back in Town,” “Roll, Muddy River”
Instruments: both on guitar? Doyle plaed guitar and Teddy played bass for Webb Pierce.
Vocal style:
They also added their vocal harmonies to others’ recordings, such as Webb Pierce’s “In the Jailhouse Now” and Ernest Tubbs’ “Hey, Mr. Bluebird.”

Sources:

All Music Guide

Malone, Bill C. Country Music U.S.A., 2nd rev. ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

Kingsbury, Paul, ed. Encyclopedia of Country Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Russell, Tony. Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Are You from Dixie? Great Country Brother Teams of the 1930s. RCA 8417-2.