Ernie Isley on discovering Jimi Hendrix and providing the Beatles with career-launching material

Jul 14, 2018, 6:52 AM
The Isley Brothers (Viniciusmc, Wikimedia Commons)
(Viniciusmc, Wikimedia Commons)

As far as Ernie Isley of doo-wop/rock group the Isley Brothers is concerned, his band’s 1959 hit “Shout” is “the rock n’ roll equivalent of ‘Happy Birthday.'”

“Everybody knows it, everybody appreciates it, everybody enjoys it,” Isley told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

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And indeed, even 60 years after it first came out, “Shout” is still a routine staple of any wedding or birthday party playlist.

“It has the perennial elements of celebration, of youth, of any kind of a party,” Isley said.

Isley Brothers fans will soon have a reason to shout — the group is coming to the Tulalip Amphitheatre on August 3, touring with the Pointer Sisters.

Over their time, the Isley Brothers inspired not only countless fans, but also other iconic music artists. Ernie Isley recalled how “Twist and Shout” — originally recorded by the Top Notes in 1961 but put on the charts by the Isleys in 1962 — went on to bring fame to a certain group of lads in Liverpool trying to make it big at that time.

For Isley, though, there are no hard feelings toward the Beatles for using the song.

“We loved it collectively,” he said. “That showed they had been listening. Because before they came to America, their one-two punch performing was ‘Shout’ and ‘Twist and Shout’ in their repertoire.”

In fact, at a party a few years ago, Paul McCartney told Ernie Isley that  “if it were not for the Isley Brothers, the Beatles would still be in Liverpool.”

Then at the same party, the Isleys, McCartney, Usher, Jennifer Hudson, and Jon Bon Jovi proceeded to perform “Twist and Shout” onstage.

The Isley brothers helped shoot another 1960s icon to fame.

“Jimi Hendrix was hired by my brothers in March of 1963,” Isley said. “He was a house guest of an employee for two years in our home. His first recording session was with the Isley brothers.”

Hendrix stayed in the Isleys’ mother’s home, where Ernie Isley remembers watching Saturday morning cartoons with the future rock star.

“It’s just this guy that plays very well that is polite, respectful, minds his own business, catches on real fast,” Isley recalled.

Hendrix even changed the arrangement of “Twist and Shout.” Isley remembered how “nobody played the instrument like that, ever.”

“To me, emotionally, he’s my favorite,” Isley said. “I met him when I was 11 years old. Yes, he’s the best. As far as I’m concerned. That’s because of what I saw and heard as an 11-year-old in my home.”

The Isleys take to the stage at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 3. For tickets, visit



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Ernie Isley on discovering Jimi Hendrix and providing the Beatles with career-launching material