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Ohio Players were an American funk, soul music and R&B band, most popular in the 1970s. They are best known for their songs "Fire" and "Love Rollercoaster".

Gold certifications, records selling at least five hundred thousand copies, were awarded to the singles "Funky Worm", "Skin Tight", "Fire", and "Love Rollercoaster"; plus to their albums Skin TightFire, and Honey.

On August 17, 2013, Ohio Players were inducted into the inaugural class of the Official R&B Music Hall of Fame that took place at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Due to their funky sound and heartfelt soul songs, they are wildly regarded as one of the greatest funk bands of all time.

History

The band formed in Dayton, Ohio in 1959 as the Ohio Untouchables and initially included members Robert Ward (vocals/guitar), Marshall "Rock" Jones (bass), Clarence "Satch" Satchell (saxophone/guitar), Cornelius Johnson (drums), and Ralph "Pee Wee" Middlebrooks (trumpet/trombone). They were best known at the time as a backing group for rhythm and blues group The Falcons.

Ward had proved to be an unreliable leader, who would sometimes, during gigs, walk off the stage, forcing the band to stop playing. Eventually, the group vowed to keep playing even after he left. Ward and Jones got into a fistfight in 1964, after which the group broke up.

Ward found new backups, and the group's core members returned to Dayton. They replaced Ward with 21-year-old guitarist Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner, who would become the group's front man, and added drummer Gregory Webster. To accommodate Bonner's musical style preferences for the group ("R&B with a little flair to it") and to avoid competing with Ward, the group changed their format. By 1965, the group had renamed themselves Ohio Players, reflecting its members' self-perceptions as musicians and as ladies' men.

The group added two more singers, Bobby Lee Fears and Dutch Robinson, and became the house band for the New York-based Compass Records. In 1967, they added vocalist Helena Ferguson Kilpatrick, who had just returned from George Gershwin's European Tour of Porgy and Bess.

The group disbanded again in 1970. After again re-forming with a line-up including Bonner, Satchell, Middlebrooks, Jones, Webster, trumpeter Bruce Napier, vocalist Charles Dale Allen, trombonist Marvin Pierce, and keyboardist Walter "Junie" Morrison, the Players had a minor hit on the Detroit-based Westbound label in with "Pain" (1971), which reached the Top 40 of the Billboard R&B chart. Vocalist and saxophonist James Johnson joined the group at this time. Dale Allen shared co-lead vocals on some of the early Westbound material, although he was not credited on their albums Pain and Pleasure. It was at Westbound Records where the group met George Clinton, who admired their music. The two albums' avante-garde covers featured a spiked-black leather-bikini clad, bald model Pat "Running Bear" Evans, who would later appear on the covers of additional Ohio Players albums, including ClimaxEcstasy, and Gold.

The band's first big hit single was "Funky Worm", which reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart and made the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1973. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in May of that year. The band signed with Mercury Records in 1974. By then, their line-up had changed again, with keyboardist Billy Beck instead of Morrison and drummer James "Diamond" Williams instead of Webster. On later album releases, they added second guitarist/vocalist Clarence "Chet" Willis and percussionist Robert "Kuumba" Jones. Meanwhile, keyboardist Walter "Junie" Morrison recorded three albums on his own before joining Funkadelic as the force behind their hit album One Nation Under a Groove. An internet story in advance of a June, 2017 concert indicated that Billy Beck, Jimmy "Diamond" Williams, Clarence "Chet" Willis, and Robert "Kuumba" Jones are still performing.

The band had seven Top 40 hits between 1973 and 1976. These included "Fire" (No. 1 on both the R&B and pop chart for two weeks and one week respectively in February 1975 and another million seller) and "Love Rollercoaster" (No. 1 on both the R&B and pop charts for one week in January 1976; another gold disc recipient). The group also took on saxophonist James Johnson. The group's last big hit was "Who'd She Coo?" a No. 1 R&B hit in August 1976. It was their only success in the United Kingdom, where it peaked at No. 43 on the UK Singles Chart in July 1976.

In the late seventies, three members of the group went on to form funk-soul band Shadow, which would release three albums.

Deaths

Clarence "Stach" Satchell (born April 15, 1940) died December 30, 1995 after suffering a brain aneurysm at the age of 55; Ralph "Pee Wee" Middlebrooks (born August 20, 1939) died in November 1997 of cancer; Vincent Thomas ("Venny Wu"), (born January 26, 1958) died February 16, 2008, of cancer, in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas, and Robert Ward (born October 15, 1938) died at home December 25, 2008. Cornelius Johnson (born July 12, 1937) died February 1, 2009. Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner (born March 14, 1943, Hamilton, Ohio) died January 26, 2013 at age 69 of cancer. Marshall "Rock" Jones (born January 1, 1941, Dayton, Ohio), the last surviving member from the Ohio Untouchables line-up, died of cancer on May 27, 2016 in Houston, Texas, at age 75. Walter "Junie" Morrison died in February 2017, aged 62, leaving Billy Beck, James "Diamond" Williams, Clarence "Chet" Willis, and Robert "Kuumba" Jones as the last known surviving members of the group. It is currently unknown what happened to the other members of the band.

Why Their Songs Rock

  1. They had a very funky sound.
  2. Their songs are great.
  3. They had a great drummer, James "Diamond" Williams.
  4. They also made amazing soul music.

Bad Qualities

  1. Their album covers are weird and erotic.
  2. Their music declined in quality starting with the 1979 album Everybody Up.

Band Members

The band had many lineup changes over the years.

Classic Lineup

  • Marshall "Rock" Jones – Fender bass (1959–1984)
  • James "Diamond" Williams – drums, chimes, percussion, lead & background vocals, timbales, congas (1974–1980; unknown–present)
  • Billy Beck – piano, grand piano, organ, Hammond B-3 organ, Fender Rhodes piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, RMI electric piano, Clavinet, ARP Odyssey, ARP string ensemble, percussion, lead & background vocals (1974–1980; unknown–present)
  • Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner – guitar, percussion, lead & background vocals (1964–1997)
  • Ralph "Pee Wee" Middlebrooks – trumpet, trombone & background vocals (1959–1984)
  • Clarence "Satch" Satchell – baritone sax, tenor sax, soprano sax, alto sax, flute, percussion, lead & background vocals (1959–1980)
  • Marvin "Merv" Pierce – trumpet, flugelhorn, valve trombone & background vocals (1972–1982)

Other Members

  • Robert Ward – guitar (1959–1964)
  • Cornelius Johnson – drums (1959–1964)
  • Gregory "Greg" Webster – drums (1964–1974)
  • Bobby Lee Fears – vocals (1964–1970)
  • Dutch Robinson – vocals (1964–1970)
  • Helena Ferguson Kilpatrick – vocals (1967–unknown)
  • Charles Dale Allen – vocals (1970?–unknown)
  • Bruce Napier – trumpet (1972–1974)
  • Walter "Junie" Morrison – keyboards (1970–1974)
  • James Johnson – vocals, saxophone (1971?–unknown)
  • Clarence "Chet" Willis – guitars (1977–1980; unknown–present)
  • Robert "Kuumba" Jones – congas (1977–present)
  • Wes Boatman – keyboards (1980–1981)
  • Jimmy Sampson – drums (1981–1982)

Discography

Studio Albums

Year Album Peak Chart Positions Certifications

(sales threshold)

Record Label
US US

R&B

CAN
1969 Observations in Time Capitol
1972 Pain 177 21
  • US: Gold 
Westbound
Pleasure 63 4
1973 Ecstasy 70 19
1974 Skin Tight 11 1 15
  • US: Platinum 
Mercury
Fire 1 1 17
  • US: Platinum 
1975 Honey 2 1 36
  • US: Platinum 
1976 Contradiction 12 1 26
  • US: Gold 
1977 Angel 41 9 58
Mr. Mean 68 11 65
1978 Jass-Ay-Lay-Dee 69 15
1979 Everybody Up 80 19 Arista
1981 Tenderness 165 49 Boardwalk
Ouch! 201
1984 Graduation Century Vista
1988 Back 55 Track Record
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Live Albums

  • Ol' School (1996, Essential Music)
  • Jam (1996, Mercury)
  • Live 1977 (2013 Goldenlane records)

Compilation Albums

Year Album Peak Chart Positions Certifications

(sales threshold)

Record Label
US US

R&B

CAN
1972 First Impressions Trip
1974 The Ohio Players 32 Capitol
Climax 102 24 Westbound
1975 Greatest Hits 92 22
Rattlesnake 61 8
1976 Gold 31 10 28
  • US: Gold 
Mercury
1977 The Best of the Early Years, Vol. 1 58 Westbound
1995 Funk on Fire: The Mercury Anthology Mercury
1998 Orgasm: The Very Best of the Westbound Years Westbound
2000 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection - The Best of Ohio Players Mercury
2008 Gold [2008] Island/Mercury
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Singles

Year Single Peak Chart Positions
US US

R&B

CAN UK
1967 "Neighbors"
1968 "Trespassin'" 50
"It's a Crying Shame"
1969 "Bad Bargain"
"Find Someone to Love"
1971 "Pain (Part 1)" 64 35 91
1972 "Pleasure" 45
"Varee Is Love"
1973 "Funky Worm" 15 1 50
"Ecstasy" 31 12
"Sleep Talk"
1974 "Jive Turkey (Part 1)" 47 6 71
"Skin Tight" 13 2 19
"Fire"[1] 1 1 5
1975 "I Want to Be Free" 44 6 51
"Sweet Sticky Thing" 33 1 60
"Love Rollercoaster" 1 1 2
1976 "Fopp" 30 9 43
"Rattlesnake" 90 69
"Who'd She Coo?" 18 1 63 43
"Far East Mississippi" 26
1977 "Feel the Beat (Everybody Disco)" 61 31
"Body Vibes" 19
"O-H-I-O" 45 9 88
"Merry Go Round" 77
"Good Luck Charm (Part 1)" 101 51
1978 "Magic Trick" 93
"Funk-O-Nots" 105 27
"Time Slips Away" 53
1979 "Everybody Up" 33
1981 "Try a Little Tenderness" 40
"Skinny" 46
"The Star of the Party"
1984 "Sight for Sore Eyes" 83
1988 "Sweat" 50
"Let's Play (From Now On)" 33
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Notes

  1. "Fire" also peaked at No. 10 on Billboard's Disco Action chart.

Videos

External Links

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