Some Guy Named Ernie
Talking "That Lady," Jimi Hendrix, and musical stepping stones with the great Ernie Isley
(Photo by Don Hunstein, Sony Music Archives)
It was the summer of 2001, and I had Ronald and Ernie Isley on the phone. Eternal, the Isley Brothers’ 28th album, was just about to drop, and I was conducting an interview for Rolling Stone about the record, which featured a wide array of contemporary R&B talent — including Raphael Saadiq, Jill Scott, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, and the now-disgraced R. Kelly — pitching in to help bring the soul legends into the 21st century.
Ronald, the older of the two by 11 years, and the only surviving member of the original Isley Brothers trio, had done most of the answering during our chat. But seeing as we had a minute or two left at the end of our scheduled phone call, I decided to direct a question to Ernie, a question I’d been craving the answer to for over a decade.
“So, Ernie… I’ve always loved your guitar sound on ‘That Lady’. How did you get it?”
“Oh, it’s pretty simple,” he began, but Ronald cut him off.
“FAMILY SECRET!!!” the older Isley proclaimed, chuckling as he brought our interview to an end.
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