Vintage Guitar - February 2018 - 75
"Twist and Shout"
was the first song they
did. It stopped the show. It also
has an emotional connection. I ran
into Paul McCartney once and I said,
"You guys are just wonderful." He
said, "Ernie, if it wasn't for The Isley
Brothers, The Beatles would still be
in Liverpool." Then we got a Lifetime
Achievement Award at the Grammys
in 2014, the same year as The Beatles.
When I met Ringo, he said, "You guys
are the reason we were able to hit our
Your lead guitar sound is so memorable. What goes into it?
"That Lady," "Summer Breeze," "Voyage
To Atlantis," "Fight The Power," "Harvest
For The World," "Footsteps In The Dark,"
"Hello It's Me," and "Climbing Up The
Ladder" became hugely popular with a
generation of soul fans.
Isley's latest recording is a collaboration
with Carlos Santana called Power Of Peace.
A riveting soul-rock effort, it blends the
velvet tones of vocalist Ronald Isley with
the mighty guitars of Carlos and Ernie.
You and Carlos Santana have very
different - but complementary - playing styles.
It's true. As we were tracking, I had a
silly grin on my face. At certain points,
he'd stop and point to me. I'd start playing
and when I looked up, he'd have this same
grin! I was thinking, "That's the sound!
He's that guy!" This is Carlos Santana,
no doubt about it! From that point on,
we complemented each other quite well.
Ernie Isley: Tracy Isley.
Were it not for you, a generation raised
on soul music wouldn't be exposed to
fuzz and lead guitar...
I've heard that, and I appreciate it. The
fact I was able to have an identifiable tone
and sound made it all that much more
sweet. When "That Lady" came out, there
was some mystery about who was playing
it: "Is that Jimi Hendrix or Carlos Santana?" Then someone finally said, "That's
Ernie?" and of course someone else would
ask, "Who's Ernie?" CBS Records was
Isley's Zeal #3 Stratocaster is dressed
front and back for good reason. Here,
he emulates Hendrix during a solo.
like that, too. They
didn't know what
category to put
that song in, but
it found its way
to what it was - a
change maker of a
The Isley Brothers resumé is quite
remarkable. No other
artist started in the
'50s and has Jimi Hendrix as a house guest
and employee. From
when The Beatles
covered "Tw ist
and Shout" to
Sma l ls doing
S h e e t s ." To
this day, everybody still
People forget The Beatles
came to America
singing Isley Brothers songs.
On "That Lady" there was a Big Muff,
a Maestro Phase Shifter, and a Fender
Twin. That was pretty much it. I went
to a music store on Sunset Boulevard
with a certain sound in mind. I tried
different pedals until I was like, "That's
it!" I wanted to use it on "That Lady,"
which is a funky-but-melodious track,
but it didn't have lead guitar on it.
When I plugged in and hit the first note,
the song changed. The engineers were
like, "This doesn't sound like anything
or anybody!" There was a great deal
of love, excitement, and adventure in
the room. My oldest brother, Kelly,
who was standing in the studio, didn't blink
for 45 minutes
We were all astounded. I played
two takes; on the
first, I played ever y where. It was
they said, "You
gotta cut it back
for the vocals
(laug hs) ." I
was ticked off,
but I played it
is what went
on the record. When
it came out,
like, "You gotta
hear this new re-