Inspired by one of Don Everly's ex-girlfriends, this song is about a guy Cathy dumps. He tries to be strong, but everyone knows him as "Cathy's Clown" because she treated him so bad.
Don Everly did the arrangement, which was influenced by the conductor Andre Kostelanetz' version of the orchestral piece "Grand Canyon Suite."
This was the first Everly Brothers single for Warner Bros. Records. They signed with the label in 1960 after cranking out a string of hits for Cadence Records, which couldn't afford to re-sign them. Warner Bros. launched in 1958 and was struggling - their only big hit was a novelty song by Edward Byrnes and Connie Stevens called "Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)," which hit #4 in 1959. They paid the Everlys a reported $1 million (it was likely less) and expected a hit, so the pressure was on. The duo delivered with "Cathy's Clown." Recorded on March 18, it was released in early April and made #1 in the US on May 23, holding the top spot for five weeks.
Recorded in Nashville with Wesley Rose producing, the musicians on this track were:
Floyd Chance - bass
Buddy Harman - drums
Floyd Cramer - piano
There was only one drummer on this track, but he was augmented by a tape loop that engineer Bill Porter used to add additional beats. This being 1960, it was done on the fly, with Porter switching to the loop when he wanted it to come in.
This was the first single ever released on the Warner Bros. label in the United Kingdom, where it got the catalog number WB-1.
It went to #1 in the UK on May 11, 1960 and stayed there for seven weeks.
During this time, The Everly Brothers toured the UK backed by the Crickets, who were Buddy Holly's backing band until his death in 1959.
This was the first single to simultaneously top the UK and US charts.
This was added to the Library of Congress National Song Registry in 2013.
The writer credits on this song went to both Don and Phil Everly until 1980, when a deal was made to make Don the solo composer.
Reba McEntire had a Country #1 hit 1989 with her version, in which she changed the lyrics from first person to third person:
She don't want your lovin' anymore
She don't want your kisses, that's for sure
Why do you let them put you down
And let 'em call you Cathy's Clown?