Courtesy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
In honor of the 60th anniversary of the iconic song, “Shout,” 1992 Inductees Ron and Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers came to the Rock Hall
earlier today to participate in an interview session in front of an audience that filled most of the museum's first level. They didn't perform, but they talked about their career that stretches back six decades.
At first, the gospel/soul/R&B group was a regional sensation in and around its Cincinnati hometown.
“We felt like if we could make a record and everyone could hear us, we would be famous,” said Ron Isley when asked about the band's early days.
In 1959, the band dropped “Shout,” the hit song that would set its career in motion. Ron Isley says seeing the audience react during a live show inspired the song’s lyrics.
“I thought about what the audience was doing, and it was like, ‘You make me wanna shout,'" he says. "I was singing about what the audience was doing. We told our record producer about the show. He said, 'Why don’t you recall what you were doing and bring some friends to the studio.' We tried that and brought some friends by the studio. The song was just a gift from God. From that moment on, our career just exploded, and here we are in 2019.”
Ron Isley recalled how Ernie was just a kid at the time, but said he'd call him out onto the stage to dance during "Shout" and then even sang a few bars from the song while talking about the tune.
The band also had great success with its rendition of the Bert Berns tune “Twist and Shout.” Ron Isley recalled that the group was running out of time when it was cutting it in the studio and thought the song would suffer as a result.
“I thought our career was over,” said Isley, who recalled that it got still managed to get radio airplay and then sold more than a million records.
In the ‘60s, the band signed to Atlantic Records, and Jimi Hendrix started playing with the group. At the time, Hendrix’s guitar was in a pawn shop. The Isley Brothers helped him get it back.
“He was just incredible,” said Ron Isley of Hendrix. “He loved his guitar and just took it everywhere he went. He was so great that all the places we played would go crazy about him. At the time, no guitar player had a sound like that.”
Hendrix inspired Ernie Isley.
“I was listening to everything he was doing,” he says, adding that he and Hendrix sat together and watched the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show
Ernie Isley also talked about playing 12-string guitar on “Harvest for the World.”
“I had just gotten the guitar, and that song just came out,” he said. “The message in that song is still relevant.”
The Isleys also spoke about all the hip-hop acts that have sampled their music over the years.
“We love it,” said Ron Isley. “Our catalog has been sampled more than James Brown’s. It’s a blessing.”
The Isley Brothers perform with the O’Jays tomorrow night at the State Theatre
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.