Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers Interview – Fighting the Power with Ernie Isley (Part 3 of 3) [Listen 23:10 min] S02 Ep15
Interview Date: August 13, 2012 @10 am EDT
Special Guest: Ernie Isley (of the Isley Brothers) - is a key member in one of the most famous soul/funk/R&R bands of all time. Ernie Isley was a crucial component in the band at a historic and transitional time in music; they changed the sound of the band's early music with songs like “This Old Heart of Mine” and “Shout” and advanced into their later funk driven sound with songs like "Fight the Power Pts. 1 & 2," "Harvest for the World," "Voyage to Atlantis," and “That Lady.” Ernie Isley helped make the Isley brothers one of the few groups that have charted in five consecutive decades. In this podcast we talk about the Isley Brothers' famous and loved albums, 3 + 3, Stevie Wonder’s album "Innervisions" and it’s connection with 3 + 3, “The Heat Is On,” “Fight the Power,” and Ernie’s amazing guitar playing. He tells us about his new album that he is working on, parting thoughts on Jimi Hendrix, the song Shout and we get to the heart of what makes the Isley Brothers one of the most important bands in music history.
Questions No One Thought to Ask Ernie Isley
What all the praise and everything else that depicts Jimi Hendrix as a rock god fail to show, is what a hard time Jimi had of making it. Then, and even into the days of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, people thought he was too weird, or too flamboyant to handle. And while he was undeniably good, he often got criticism that he played too loud, or was put down for the way he dressed, or didn't play the right style. Though, a lot of this criticism came from people who were jealous and didn't want to be outshined on stage. It led to difficulties working with his idols. Besides Little Richard's refusal to share the spotlight, he was a taskmaster and Jimi found it to be too confining working with Little Richard.
Times were often pretty bad in the early days. When Jimi went to audition for the Isleys, they had to buy him a couple strings for his guitar. He was fortunate to have a guitar; in those days, he barely had any money and his guitars were always in and out of the pawn shops.
It was the Isley Brothers that gave him a stable platform, although, sometimes even amongst those groups they travelled with he was a hard sell. At one point, while on the road for an Isley Brothers tour, the alto sax player was driving and couldn't take Jimi fantasizing and going on about dragon shaped guitars that spewed fire, the sax player said that the cat was freaking him out, pulled over, and had Jimi take over the wheel. It probably wasn't the wisest move, because although it stopped Jimi from talking, Jimi needed glasses but refused to wear them. Twenty minutes later, they hit a deer that ended up coming through the windshield. No one was hurt (besides the deer, of course) but someone with better eyesight might have avoided the collision. (Perhaps you squares should just build a little more tolerance for the freaks, or maybe just don't hand them the keys.)
Etta James knew them in Harlem when Jimi was touring with the Isley Brothers; she loved the Isley Brothers, but talked disparagingly of Jimi. She said he looked like a roadie playing the R&B circuit.
He heard criticism all the time, which, no doubt led him to head to England. But not everything was on the blame of others, he had little regard for holding to a contract, and didn't always show up for gigs. The Isley Brothers went to bat for Jimi on more than one occasion and opened more doors for him, and perhaps gave him his most stable surroundings in that era when they took him in to their home. They bought Jimi the Fender Duo-Sonic to tour with which they later let him keep when they parted.
It was only around this time when Ernie was getting into music, and a little later, the Isley Brothers took the younger ones into the mix. But these times when Jimi spent at the Isley household were truly monumental and had a tremendous impact. Growing up in the Isley household with Hendrix in the mix, something had to have rubbed off. He was paying attention, and the speed which Ernie took to music, and was in on the hit recordings is truly astonishing, even taking into consideration the musically talented environment he was raised.
Ask Ernie Isley, he's got some stories to tell, and the way he puts it, you needed to be beside him, sitting silently, hearing him play unamplified to really get it.
Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers Interview – Holding onto the bass for dear life with Ernie Isley (Part 2 of 3) [Listen 34:30 min] S02 Ep15
Interview Date: August 13, 2012 @10 am EDT
Special Guest: Ernie Isley (of the Isley Brothers) - is a key member in one of the most famous soul/funk/R&R bands of all time. Ernie Isley was a crucial component in the band at a historic and transitional time in music; they changed the sound of the band's early music with songs like “This Old Heart of Mine” and “Shout” and advanced into their later funk driven sound with songs like "Fight the Power Pts. 1 & 2," "Harvest for the World," "Voyage to Atlantis," and “That Lady.” Ernie Isley helped make the Isley brothers one of the few groups that have charted in five consecutive decades. In this podcast we talk about why Jimi Hendrix had difficulty catching in America, the first time Ernie was in the studio to record "It's your thing," the 3 + 3 recording sessions, and the Beatles inspiration and introduction in America.
Attention Everyone: This is a Snobbery!
In these days of music snobs and jokes like “I'm into bands that haven't even formed yet.” As great as some artists are lauded now and pasted on the front cover of magazines and whose image sell millions of t-shirts, some never got the popularity nor the due respect simply because they were too advanced for the population or market to accept. All this despite skill, mettle, integrity, or whatever you wish to say that separates a band from the crowd but also separates them so far for them to fail to realize success. Ironically, while recognition is the measure and aim (often) of budding artists pushing their craft to new levels hoping to make it big, the market and larger population tends to be pretty conservative.
But this is the market. And there's more than one side. The Delfonics probably wouldn't have such a cult following if it weren't so cool to be into the band before they broke, or never broke but should have. If every band that finally made it had a nickel from everyone who said they were into them before they got popular, well, let's just say that there would be a lot more money to go around to feed the starving artists, perhaps to the ends of time.
This is the priceless and intangible commodity; the je nes sais quoi of music appreciation. Lest not we forget Hammond's Folley: Bob Dylan. Hammond's Folley was the moniker given to Dylan because Columbia Records' A&R man John Hammond signed Dylan, and produced his album which sold poorly at first and Hammond's bosses found such disfavour with Dylan they dubbed him “Hammond's Folley.” In fact, the Columbia Record execs didn't authorize his signing. It was Hammond's persistence and rebellious nature to go ahead and sign him despite his superiors objections. Obviously, he had an ear more advanced than the execs; Dylan's success and Hammond's reputation more than show for it.
There are scores of bands that influenced others and helped launch them into stardom but never got to reap the same degree of success. Jimi Hendrix credited the Isley Brothers because reporters fascinated by his sound wanted to know how he developed and would ask him directly what bands he was into and influenced by. Often, Hendrix would only mention the Isley Brothers.
Also, unfortunately, as time wears on influences get forgotten and stories get simplified. As Ernie Isley describes in the interview, finding McCartney in his audience, they happened to have a great meeting, and the two gushed on each other great respect. And while the same three names of Elvis, Carl Perkins, and Chuck Berry get mentioned as the influences of the Beatles, McCartney told Isley that the Beatles would never have gotten out of Liverpool had it not been for the Isley Brothers, and he got up on stage and said so to give them homage.
It's a mercurial nature of where a sound takes hold. Place and time are never consistent. Hendrix said that he really learned to play while he was in Memphis because the audiences were so hard and everybody there played guitar, but Memphis got to be limiting pretty quickly in terms of sound; that plus the race issue made it difficult to gain success there. In the U.S. in '63 only the major metropolitan areas were where mixed race bands were accepted; elsewhere, they were often shut down or forced out. Countless stories could be told. During this time, and the influx of the British Invasion, Hendrix was told that he just wouldn't sell in America. This is how Jimi was spirited away to the U.K.
But I'm not talking about the race issue here, it's the general acceptance issue-if their music was appreciated. The same goes for fine art and literature. Artists sometimes never get the recognition they deserve until they're dead.
And still, musicians get passed over because they were too advanced. All this considering the valuable commodity and bragging rights of being into the band that hasn't broke yet, but on the verge. Unfortunately, some remain on the verge and only make it to a revered cult following; such has been said of Sun Ra and Frank Zappa.
But what makes the long hours of research so rewarding is honing that appreciation to be able to flesh out the bands that had that sound, or skill, or philosophy, or audacity to push music in another direction but just weren't pushed, promoted, discovered, or simply just weren't accepted in their time and passed over. It's not just collecting, it's honing an appreciation and relishing the reward. It brings a higher level of integrity to music snob.
We thought we'd pay a little respect to some of the artists who didn't get their due in their day.
Considered by most as only a joke at first. I bet you own a t-shirt with their name on it.
P.S. Dylan releases his new album, "Tempest" around the second week of September
Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers Interview – Buying a white Strat with Ernie Isley (Part 1 of 3) [Listen 18:20 min] S02 Ep15
Interview Date: August 13, 2012 @10 am EDT
Special Guest: Ernie Isley (of the Isley Brothers) - is a key member in one of the most famous soul/funk/R&R bands of all time. Ernie Isley was a crucial component in the band at a historic and transitional time in music; they changed the sound of the band's early music with songs like “This Old Heart of Mine” and “Shout” and advanced into their later funk driven sound with songs like "Fight the Power Pts. 1 & 2", "Harvest for the World", "Voyage to Atlantis" and “That Lady.” Ernie Isley helped make the Isley brothers one of the few groups that have charted in five consecutive decades. In this podcast we talk about the history of the Isley Family and the day Jimi Hendrix moved into the Isley house when Ernie was 11.
Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Most know him by his outrageous stage presence and antics, most notably, from Monterrey, or Woodstock, but Jimi Hendrix was truly an artist, and had a gentle and introspective nature. It's this nature of his that drew attention to him when he may have preferred simply to melt into the crowd. He earned more than a few nicknames because of this. Ironically, he started out with "Buster"
Jimi's first legal name was Johnny Allan Hendrix. His father, Al,returning from the service and meeting him for the first time, had it legally changed to James Marshall Hendrix.
Apparently, because of his quiet demeanour and innocent face, the band members of The Rocking Kings would call him "Cupcake."
After his time in the Army and befriending Billy Cox, Jimi was in a band called the King Kasuals, who referred to him as "Marbles" as in he's lost his for doing things like sleeping with his guitar.
For what exact reason is not explained, perhaps for obscurity or just his sense of humour, but Jimi told his idol, Little Richard, that his name was Maurice James.
A friend of his in Harlem, Dean Courtney, called him "Snagglepuss." So far, it can only be proven by it's absence, but no bad men have ever been known to be called Snagglepuss.
It's said that Etta James called Jimi "Egg Foo Yung" because that was all that he'd eat for dinner every night in Harlem.
Beautiful, just beautiful.
For those of you who are interested in the instruments, Ernie has some custom Stratocasters built for him. Here's a link which shows one of them. http://www.fender.com/blog/watch-joss-stone-ernie-isley-on-leno/
Historical research gained from: Becoming Jimi Hendrix: From Southern Crossroads to Psychedelic London, the Untold Story of a Musical Genius by Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber, Da Capo Press 2010