The Isley Brothers Interview
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In The Beginning....
The Isley Brothers
And Jimi Hendrix

The Album Cover. Liner Notes


Ronnie Isley speaking:"We used to call him 'The Creeper' cause he'd move softly.

"One time we were coming back from a date in Buffalo. Kelly and Rudy and I were in one car and the band guys were in a station wagon behind us." Kelly Isley speaking: "I think this is a good time to name the guys in the band. We called em by nicknames. 'Bugs' was the bass player, 'Giant' was the drummer, 'Moe' played trumpet-did you know he was once one of the Moments? -'MacArthur' was on alto sax, Marv Massey was the baritone sax man and Gene Friday played organ."

Ronnie lsley speaking: "The band guyswere behind us. After a while we didn't see them so we pulled over and waited. About twentyminutes went by and we thought they'd made a wrong turn. Then a guy drives up to us and says,'Are you with the station wagon?' and we said yes and he said 'You'd better get back there.There's been a terrible accident. The car's completely demolished.' So we turned around quick.Jimi had been driving. He wasn't supposed to but MacArthur had gotten sleepy so Jimi had taken the wheel. He was doing 85 when he hit an 8-point buck deer. The deer just jumped out on the road. And the car was like totally demolished. The hood was peeled back and had gone through the windshield. But Jimi didn't have a scratch on him. Nobody did. It was amazing. Jimi was standing by the road laughing and looking at the deer. You would have figured that if Jimi's time was going to come, that should have been it."

"We were at the Palms Cafe, close to the Apollo, talking to a friend of ours, Tony Rice. He used to work with Joe Tex. I told him we were looking for a guitar player and he started telling me about this guy who had just come in on the bus from his home town. l think it was Seattle-yeah-and he was living at the Hotel Theresa. Tony said the guy didn't have enough strings on his guitar. I think that was the guitar his father gave him. Tony said this kid, he was about fifteen or six-teen, was the best, and that he played righthanded guitar with his left hand. I said to Tony, 'Aw, come on, man, he can't be that good. Is he better than -' and then I started naming all the guitar players we knew that we would like to have in our band and Tony said, 'He's better than any of 'em.' Finally he tells me the guy's name is Jimi Hendrix.

Tony said Jimi had sat in with the Palms band one night and had killed everybody, so we made a date to meet him and hear him. Tony said, 'He's shy.' "The night we met, Tony went up to the bandstand and asked if Jimi could sit in, but the guys in the band didn't want to let him on. So I went up and asked them and they said, "No, he plays too loud' and so forth and I knew it was jealousy. You know, musicians get jealous sometimes. So I said to Jimi, 'Look, come out to my house this weekend; I've got amplifiers and the band will come over and we'll have some fun.' "We were living in Teaneck and the band had rented a house in Englewood. Jimi came over and I went out and bought him some strings, so he'd have a full set. I came back and Jimi put the strings on and said, 'Do you mind if I tune up a little?' When he tuned up it was'just like when he played - wonk, wooonk, wheeeee! Well, we played some of our tunes - he knew all of them from our records -and we hired him that afternoon. That was in March or April of 1964 and he was with us until he went to England.

"First gig he played with us was in Canada. He was crazy about places he'd never been to before. It was on that gig that - well, we'd have so much fun playing with him - I'd sing like his guitar (demonstrates) and then he'd play it back at me! Then we went to Bermuda. We played in a baseball stadium. We'd been advertised for months, so the place was filled and those who couldn't get seats were standing on hills overlooking the stadium. It was us and local talent. 'Our band backed the other acts. We were in the dressing room when we heard what sounded like a riot going on and we figured one of the local acts must have made a big hit. But this guy came into the dressing room and said, 'Who is that out there?" so we all peeked and there was Jimi, down on his knees, biting the guitar, and the crowd was just going crazy. "Jimi was people. He never sat in a corner and cried about his problems or money of anything like that. He met people as people and they took him the same way. He didn't have any hang-ups personally. He didn't have any money hang-ups neither.

The band was getting 30 dollars a man a night in thosedays. Jimi would come to us once in awhile and ask us for an extra ten because he wanted to buy strings or clothes-stage clothes-or chains. You know, in those days, if you wore chains and things you looked really weird. Jimi would wear a chain belt with another chain hanging down and then when he played he'd jump around and those chains would go flying. He had long hair then, too. We wanted to pay Jimi more money to keep him happy but he never asked for it. He wasn't a guy who'tried to take advantage, if you know what I mean. When he went out to buy theatrical clothes he'd buy something a little different, like a ruffled shirt or something, because his individuality was coming out. That was cool with us.

"One time we were playing his home town-we did an awful lot of college work in those days; we were one of the few groups to play colleges instead of theatres-and Jimi ran into an old girl friend. He wanted to stay over and meet us the next day in the next town. We said OK because we thought he knew where the next gig was. He didn't show up the next day and we didn't see him until a week later in New York. His guitar had been stolen. Kelly went down to Manny's Music Shop and got him another one. Jimi loved his guitars. After a gig, you know, the other musicians would want to go off and drink or get a girl or something. But Jimi would just sit there and play. And he'd jam with anyone. He loved to jam. Kelly teased him about keeping the guitar under lock and key.

"We made a deal with Atlantic Records to distribute our label, T-Neck. I think we were one of the very few groups who had their own label at the time. Jimi walked into the studio-he'd never been in one before-and said, 'Oh, is this how you make records?' We cut 'Testify' on four tracks. The band was on two, Rudy and Kelly were on one and I was onone. The rest of the stuff we cut, though, was on eight tracks. Atlantic had one of the few eight-track studios at the time, so for the rest of the material on this album, Jimi had his own track. We've remixed it so Jimi is more up front.

"Later on we went to Motown. But just before that we were doing a gig at the Apollo. Murray the K had one of his British shows going on at another theatre, The Animals and Tom Jones were there. Well, Jimi was just like everybody else, he wanted to see what those fellows looked like. So he'd get backstage and say hello and then he'd spot a guitar in the corner, maybe a 12-string, and right away he'd be playing it. The English guys would go nuts. They'd say, 'You've got to come to England. Why don't you come with us?' Jimi was dying to go to England. So that was where we split up. We went to Detroit and he went to England. "Later we got, copies of the English music papers and we saw all these big articles about Jimi and his group, the Experience. I went to the Colony (record store) and bought a copy of his album. I listened to it and at first I thought, 'Aw, come on, man' but then I took it home and really listened to it and it killed me.

After we had 'It's Your Thing' and we were doing gigs like the Yankee Stadium show, we called him and asked if he wanted to come and sit in. He was busting to come but he was locked into a gig in Canada. I think it was the Expo. "We kept up contact; we always stayed friends. Kelly kept teasing him about wanting the guitar back. He used to ask us if we had copies of the records we made together. We didn't because of contracts. But we knew the tapes were coming back to us and we told him that when they did we were going to reissue them. He was happy about it but he said, 'if there's any stuff I played that isn't right, let me know and I'll come in and do it over.' I told him not to worry about it. Jimi never played anything wrong.

"We're glad the album is coming out. People in the business who knew us when we were working together have been interested in hearing it. And it's honest. See, nobody knew how big Jimi was going to be. Even if you were the best guitar player around, in those days nobody ever figured a guitar player could go as far as Jimi did in his career. "Jimi was like a painter, you know? It's important to hear what he was doing in the early days as well as what he did later. We wouldn't put out anything that would embarrass him. The stuff he plays on here is good. Jimi wasn't using any wah-wah or fuzz tone equipment when this album was cut, in 1964. Jimi gets those effects by rolling the strings over one another and shaking the guitar while he's playing. "Ronnie looked down at the Hendrix obit in Down Beat and shook his head. "He was a hell of a guy. "Later on, when I was at the typewriter downstairs, Ronnie called me. "Just one thing. That tune on side two, 'The Last Girl', the one with the strings on it.. Rudy, Kelly, Jimi, Dionne Warwick and I did that. We all put it together. It was a lot of fun. I thought you might like to know that."