Ernie Isley names his favorite guitarists
Still going strong six decades on, The Isley Brothers continue to record and play live despite the fact that the core group has been reduced to 75-year-old frontman Ron Isley and his 64-year-old guitar-playing, younger sibling Ernie. That said, the duo enters 2017 on the road and waiting for a currently upcoming Carlos Santana-produced project set to drop sometime in the spring. For the younger Isley, the experience was very special.
“It was great. Carlos Santana is a fan of our music and we’re fans of his. He was being played in all the dormitories when I was in college, so [it was great] to have a chance to go in the studio and watch him play,” Isley explained. “He’s playing and I’m grinning, and then when I started playing, he’s grinning. So that was something that came full circle on every level.”
And while Ernie Isley’s first time playing in an official recording capacity as a member of The Isley Brothers came as a teenager when he played bass on the 1969 smash “It’s Your Thing,” it was his fiery six-string execution on seminal songs like “That Lady” and “Fight the Power (Part 1 & 2),” which he cowrote, that not only made music fans take notice, but showed off the influence of ex-Isley Brothers hired hand and family friend Jimi Hendrix. The following are Ernie Isley’s favorite axe slingers.
1. José Feliciano
“When I heard José Feliciano’s ‘Light My Fire,’ that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The tone of his guitar and [the fact that] he did a cover version of a Doors song and you could hear the sensuality, chord structure and these wonderful lyrics all made me want to play guitar.”
2. Jimi Hendrix
“You have a person in your home like this left-handed guitar player, and eventually it goes into the stratosphere. I didn’t have to hear the Are You Experienced? album to know he could play. By that time, I was already experienced.”
3. Carlos Santana
“Carlos is a very passionate player, and you can feel how caliente he is in terms of his style along with the percussion. For quite a while after Woodstock, the two guitar players were Hendrix and Santana.”
4. Pat Metheny
“[Pat] could very easily have a recording studio on one of the rings of Saturn with the way he gets his tone and musical expression. It’s very extraterrestrial and beautiful.”
The Isley Brothers will appear on Jan. 14 at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill, 237 West 42nd St. NYC. For more information, visit www.bbkingblues.com or call 212-997-4144.
They will also be at NYCB Theatre @ Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd., Westbury on Jan. 15. For more information, visit www.livenation.com or call 877-598-8497.