The Isley Brothers group was formed from Cincinnati, Ohio. Their father, O’Kelly Isley, Sr., a former United States Navy sailor and vaudeville performer and mother Sallye, guided the elder four Isley boys, Ronald, Rudolph, O’Kelley, and Vernon in their singing while at church. The brothers began performing together in 1954 and scored the opportunity to perform on Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour and they won the competition. They started to perform in a variety of churches. Sadly Vernon Isley was killed at age thirteen after getting hit by a car. This tragedy caused the group to stop performing. Eventually the group got back together with Ronnie as lead and decided to create popular so in 1957 they moved to New York.
Their first records like “Angels Cried” and “The Cow Jumped Over the Moon” were produced by George Goldner. Two years later the brothers entered recording deal with RCA Records. Later that year the group recorded “Shout” which performed decently on charts. Other records with RCA failed to chart so in 1961 the left and signed with Scepter Records. In 1962, the brothers scored their first top 40 hit with “Twist and Shout”. They then moved to New Jersey and struggled to make another hit. After forming T-Neck Records in 1964 they brought Jimi Hendrix into the group as their lead guitarist and they recorded the song “Testify”. Hendrix accompanied another one of their singles, “Move On Over and Let Me Dance” but left them after the songs did not do too well in the charts in 1965.
The brothers signed with Motown Records where they produced more successful recordings in comparison to their earlier ones but still struggled to provide a top 40 hit so hey left Motown in 1968 and reformed their T-Neck label that year. They issued “It’s Your Thing” which included the first appearance of Ernie Isley. The song was their biggest success to date. Ernie Isley and Marvin Isley and brother-in-law Chris Jasper joined the band after signing a distribution deal with Epic Records and made Ernie, Marvin, and Chris official members. In 1973, the Isleys released 3 + 3 and the album became their breakthrough hit, eventually selling over two million copies.
Next year Live It Up reached gold and in 1975, the brothers recorded one of their most successful recordings with The Heat Is On. The brothers would have more hit albums, including Harvest for the World, Go for Your Guns, and Showdown. The brothers’ final album in 1983 was Between the Sheets, sold more than two million copies. Shortly after the success of Between the Sheets, Ernie, Marvin, and Chris left the Isley Brothers due to a multitude of issues and formed Isley-Jasper-Isley.
In 1985, the trio of O’Kelly, Rudy, and Ronnie signed with Warner Bros. Records and released Masterpiece. Kelly Isley died shortly after. Then Ron and Rudy released the albums, Smooth Sailin’ (1987) and Spend the Night (1989). Rudy then retired from making music to begin gospel ministry. In 1991, Ron revived the group with Ernie Isley and brother Marvin and they released the album, Tracks of Life.
Ron and Ernie became a duo once Marvin had his legs amputated. They released their best-selling album in years with the Eternal album in 2001. The hit single “Contagious”, made the Isley Brothers the only act to reach the Hot 100 during the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. The duo released several albums in the following years until in 2007 Ron Isley’s was sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion. Marvin Isley died in Chicago in 2010. In 2011, Ron and Ernie came back together and they have been performing on the road since. Ernie and Ronnie Isley released Power of Peace with music legend guitarist Carlos Santana in 2017.
Isley Brother Performances
In 1993, Ice Cube sampled their song “Footsteps in the Dark” Ice Cube for his single “It Was a Good Day”.
In 1994, The Isley Brothers song “Between the Sheets” was sampled by The Notorious B.I.G. for his hit single “Big Poppa”.
R&B singer Aaliyah did a cover version of “(At Your Best) You Are Love” for her debut album in 1994.
Members: Past & Present
Ronald “Ronnie” Isley: 1954-present
O’Kelly “Kelly” Isley, Jr.: 1954-1986
Ernie Isley: 1973-1984, 1991-present
Rudolph “Rudy” Isley: 1954-1989, 2004
Chris Jasper: 1973-1984
Vernon Isley: 1954-1955
Marvin Isley: 1973-1984, 1991-1997
1962: Twist & Shout
1963: Twisting and Shouting
1966: This Old Heart of Mine
1967: Soul on the Rocks
1969: It’s Our Thing
1969: The Brothers: Isley
1970: Get into Something
1971: Givin’ It Back
1972: Brother, Brother, Brother
1973: 3 + 3
1974: Live It Up
1975: The Heat Is On
1976: Harvest for the World
1977: Go for Your Guns
1979: Winner Takes All
1980: Go All the Way
1981: Grand Slam
1981: Inside You
1982: The Real Deal
1983: Between the Sheets
1987: Smooth Sailin’
1989: Spend the Night
1992: Tracks of Life
1996: Mission to Please
2003: Body Kiss
2006: Baby Makin’ Music
2017: Power of Peace