The Isley Brothers began singing together as youngsters in 1950. Ronald, Rudolph, Kelly [originally O’Kelly] and Vernon started out as a gospel group, performing in churches and other venues throughout their hometown of Cincinnati. But in 1955, Vernon Isley was killed in a bicycle accident. The traumatized siblings would not reform the ensemble until 1956, the year they moved to New York. Still, Ronald Isley says they did not consider themselves a professional unit until 1959, when the trio logged their first hit, “Shout.” Ernie Isley joined the family business in 1969, which opened the door to his now-famous bass work on “It’s Your Thing.”
The Isley Brothers later expanded to include Marvin Isley and brother-in-law Chris Jasper; the title of their 3 + 3 album was a reference to original members Rudolph, Ronald and Kelly teaming with the new guard of Ernie, Marvin and Jasper. The 3 + 3 roster persisted until 1983, by which time the lineup had racked up a raft of hits that many consider a keystone of modern urban pop.
Ernie, Marvin and Jasper later formed Isley/Jasper/Isley, scoring a #1 Billboard R&B hit with “Caravan Of Love” in 1985. And as the 21st century dawned, the Isley Brothers mantle was carried by Ronald and Ernie. (Kelly Isley passed away in 1986.) With Eternal, the outfit became known as The Isley Brothers Featuring Ronald Isley AKA Mr. Biggs.
After The Isley Brothers left their initial mark on R&B charts in 1959 with “Shout” – which would sell a million copies and become a standard – they scored the #1 R&B hit “Twist And Shout” (both songs were subsequently covered by The Beatles), in 1962. But it was 1969’s “It’s Your Thing” that cemented their fame, shooting to #1 on the Billboard R&B chart and ultimately selling more than five million copies. The song also earned a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance.
Ensuing #1 hits included the Billboard R&B chart-toppers “Fight The Power (Part 1),” from 1975, and “Don’t Say Goodnight (It’s Time For Love),” from 1980, as well as the songs “That Lady (Part 1)” (1973), “The Heat Is On” (1975), “The Pride” (1977), “Take Me To The Next Phase” (1978), “Showdown” (1978), “I Wanna Be With You” (1979), “Smooth Sailin’ Tonight” (1987) and “Spend The Night” (1989).