Ernie Isley

Ernest "Ernie" Isley (born March 7, 1952) is a member of the American musical ensemble The Isley Brothers.[1]

Ernie Isley
Isley in 1996
Background information
Birth nameErnest Isley
Born (1952-03-07) March 7, 1952
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
GenresR&B, funk, funk rock, rock
Occupation(s)Songwriter, drummer, bassist, guitarist, percussionist, vocalist
InstrumentsGuitar, drums, bass
Years active1969present
Associated actsThe Isley Brothers, Isley-Jasper-Isley,


Ernie was born in Cincinnati, where his older brothers formed The Isley Brothers, first as a gospel group, then as a secular singing group. In 1960 his family moved to Englewood/Teaneck, New Jersey. He attended Dwight Morrow High School.[2] He resides in St. Louis, Missouri. Ernie started playing drums at 12. His first live gig as a member of his brothers' band was as a drummer in 1966 at the age of 14. Ernie was influenced by José Feliciano's version of "Light My Fire" and in 1968 got his first guitar. He is a self-taught musician. In 1968 he did his first professional recording, playing bass on the Isleys' breakthrough funk smash "It's Your Thing", released in 1969. He played electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and drums on the group's early 1970s albums Get Into Something, Givin' It Back, and Brother, Brother, Brother, before fully joining The Isley Brothers in 1973, becoming a multi-instrumentalist playing acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums and percussion.

Ernie is a prolific songwriter, penning, among others, "Fight the Power (Part 1 & 2)", Harvest for the World", "Voyage to Atlantis", "(At Your Best) You Are Love", "Footsteps In the Dark", "Brown Eyed Girl" and co-writing "That Lady", "Between the Sheets" and "Take Me To The Next Phase". His guitar riffs are recognizable on "Summer Breeze", "That Lady", "Voyage To Atlantis" and "Choosey Lover". In 1984, Ernie, Marvin and Chris formed the group Isley-Jasper-Isley, releasing their number one album Caravan of Love. In 1990, Ernie released his first solo album, High Wire. In the same year he recorded a cover version of The Cars' "Let's Go" for the compilation album Rubáiyát. In 1991, he rejoined Ronald and Marvin on tour and in the studio. In 1996 they released their platinum CD Mission to Please, and in 2001 "Eternal", the lyrics to the title track written by Ernie.

The Isley Brothers were inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.[3] In 2014 the Isley Brothers received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2010 and 2011 he participated on the Experience Hendrix Tour. He is a musician on the Janet Jackson album Discipline, on the tracks "Never Letchu Go" and "The 1". He performed on the majority of the 2012 Joss Stone CD The Soul Sessions Vol. 2. Ernie and Ronald continue to work together on tour and in the studio. Ernie and Ronald teamed up with Carlos Santana, releasing the 13 track The Power of Peace in 2017.

Fender Custom Shop has built for him three custom Zeal Stratocasters, using his personal design.[4] Ernie is active as a musical mentor in schools and community music programs. He has been a returning guest lecturer at Berklee School of Music in Boston. He is married and has one daughter, Alexandra. Isley was awarded an honorary doctorate of music by the Berklee College of Music on May 7, 2016.[5]


  1. Palmer, Robert; DeCurtis, Anthony (2011-09-06). Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer. Simon and Schuster. pp. 195–. ISBN 9781416599753. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  2. Wilner, Paul. "Isley Brothers: A Family Affair", The New York Times, March 13, 1977. Accessed August 27, 2018. "While their older brothers toured America, the younger Isley boys enrolled successively in Englewood Junior High and Dwight Morrow High School. 'We always had lots of instruments lying around the house—Stratocaster Fenders and jazz instruments—so naturally we were interested and decided to learn how to play,' Ernie Isley said."
  3. Hoffmann, Frank W.; Ferstler, Howard (2005). Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound. CRC Press. pp. 526–. ISBN 9780415938358. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  4. Paule, Marty (2014-03-19). "A Conversation with Ernie Isley of The Isley Brothers | The HUB". The HUB from Musician's Friend. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  5. Bush, Allen (2016-05-07). "Rita Moreno, the Isley Brothers, Lucian Grainge, Milton Nascimento Honored at Commencement". Berklee College of Music. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
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