Neverly Brothers takes audience on history of ‘50s, ‘60s music

The Neverly Brothers will perform music from the 1950s and 1960s on Jan. 22 at the James Lumber Center in Grayslake.
The Neverly Brothers will perform music from the 1950s and 1960s on Jan. 22 at the James Lumber Center in Grayslake. (James Lumber Center)

Musician Kevin Giragosian grew up in Palos Park loving the Beatles. He had heard “Wake Up Little Susie,” by the Everly Brothers, but wasn’t inspired much by ’50s music, he said.

When a friend suggested he listen to more music from that era, a light went on in his historical and musical mind.


“The Everly Brothers inspired the Beatles,” he said. “They had two lead vocalist singing harmony, equally strong, equally loud and mixed together. That’s what the Beatles did when they first started.”

Giragosian and his three-piece national touring band, the Neverly Brothers will perform Jan. 22 at the James Lumber Center in Grayslake.


Their show, called “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Tribute from Elvis to the Beatles,” takes the audience on a tour of 1950s and 1960s rock music.

Giragosian sings and plays guitar and harmonica. His brother, Kegham Giragosian sings and plays drums. Their bassist, Mike Bradburn, adds background vocals. Kevin Giragosian also tells stories of the history of the music they are playing; for example, who did it first, who made it famous and how it was received by audiences at the time of release.

“We’re not just a band playing music from two different eras. It’s a whole show with narration. I’m the official tour guide on this virtual tour bus,” Giragosian said.

They perform with what might seem meager instrumentation.

“My brother plays a two-piece drum kit,” Giragosian said. “He stands up when he plays. He uses brushes, not sticks. We’re all shoulder to shoulder. We’re all three side by side and our bass player plays the big upright bass fiddle. He never converted to the electric bass.

“It works,” Giragosian said. “We have the essence of the song and we deliver with energy and authenticity.”

Giragosian said the journey to performing the historical rock tour came when a friend suggested he listen to more 1950s music. That’s when he really started to admire the Everly Brothers, he said. “They’re in sync. They sing so well together. Every syllable and every word and nuance is together. They would sing notes that were close together and then one would sing a higher note. The Beatles picked up on that.”

The Neverly Brothers began performing Everly Brothers and Beatles music, but over time, Giragosian created a show that audiences particularly liked, he said. The last time they were at the James Lumber Center in 2019, they performed to a sold-out crowd of 600.

The show is done in two parts. The first set features 1950s pioneers of rock ’n’ roll like Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and the Neverly Brothers. The second set features the British Invasion, the Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, the Animals, Rolling Stones and Dave Clark Five.

The first set, they wear matching suits, what Giragosian calls “slick, sharkskin gray suits that look like western suits with string ties.” The second set, they wear suits that look like the Beatles did on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” “We purchased reproduction of vintage Beatles boots to wear,” he said.

They sing with vintage-looking microphones to a backdrop of an onstage screen with images that correspond with what they’re singing. “The audience gets to see the artists behind us on big screens. They’re totally immersed in this experience,” he said.

The songs they choose help propel the stories of rock’s history. For example, the Beatles are known for their hit, “‘Twist and Shout,” but it was recorded in 1962 by the Isley Brothers, he said. “The Isley Brothers had horns, it was more reggae sounding,” he said.

“For the Beatles, it was about the drum beat. It was guitar-driven and beat-driven. That’s what many of the British bands did.” And that’s why it was called beat music.

One of his favorite stories to tell while performing involves the Everly Brothers when they released their first single, “Wake Up Little Susie.”

It was banned from being played on the radio in Boston.

“The song was a little racy,” he said. It’s about a couple who fall asleep at the movies. “It seemed taboo at the time,” he said.

“I play the song and tell everybody, ‘if you’re offended, raise your hand.’ Nobody does and we finish the song and people are chuckling. That’s one of my favorites that I tell. It always gets a reaction.”

Giragosian ran a record store and performed in a cover band before his venture into the Neverly Brothers in 2003. He said he had enough money to do what he wanted artistically, and enough time to focus on it after the record store closed.

“We were getting booked a lot of places. It’s a niche nobody else was doing. I realized within the first year, we’ve got something here,” he said.

The band does its own management, promotion, marketing and booking.

The Neverly Brothers appeals to an older audience, with about 70% being baby boomers ages 55 and older

“We’re playing to the music of their youth,” Giragosian said. “Some may get up and dance a little bit, but most of them listen. They want to hear the show. After the song is over, they erupt with applause and hoots and hollers. After we finish the show, almost invariably we’ll walk offstage and they’ll cheer us on back for an encore.”

As the baby boomers get older, the Neverly Brothers may or may not continue. “Some people suggest we move into the 1970s and that’s a possibility,” Giragosian said.

But their 50 to 60 performances in the summer in Illinois in the Midwest attract a wider age group, and they may begin performing at schools as part of an education into the history of music, he said.

A Rock ‘n Roll Tribute from Elvis to the Beatles! Featuring The Neverly Brothers

When: 8 p.m. Jan. 22

Where: James Lumber Center, 19351 Washington St., Grayslake

Tickets: $12-$35, plus $2 facility fee

Information: 847-543-2300; jlcenter.clcillinois.edu

Sheryl DeVore is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.