Slacker Logo

Ohio Players

ON AIR
Advertisement
Advertisement

Bio

With their slinky, horn-powered grooves, impeccable musicianship, and eye-popping album covers, the Ohio Players were among the top funk bands of the mid-'70s. Emerging from the musical hotbed of Dayton in 1959, the group was originally dubbed the Ohio Untouchables, and initially comprised singer/guitarist Robert Ward, bassist Marshall "Rock" Jones, saxophonist/guitarist Clarence "Satch" Satchell, drummer Cornelius Johnson, and trumpeter/trombonist Ralph "Pee Wee" Middlebrooks. In late 1961, a relative of Ward's founded the Detroit-based Lupine Records, and the group traveled north to the Motor City to back the Falcons on their hit "I Found a Love"; the Ohio Untouchables soon made their headlining debut with "Love Is Amazing," but when Ward subsequently exited for a solo career, the group essentially disbanded. At that point, the nucleus of Middlebrooks, Jones, and newly added guitarist Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner returned to Dayton; there they recruited saxophonist Andrew Noland and drummer Gary Webster, the latter a somewhat elusive figure whose true involvement in the group's convoluted history has never been definitively answered -- some sources credit him as a founding Untouchable, others even as the band's early leader. In any case, by 1967, with the subsequent addition of singers Bobby Lee Fears and Dutch Robinson, the newly rechristened Ohio Players were signed as the house band for the New York-based Compass Records, backing singer Helena Ferguson on her lone hit, "Where Is the Party," before issuing their solo debut, "Trespassin'," which hit the R&B charts in early 1968. Although the Players' trademark bottom-heavy, horn-driven sound was already blossoming, their follow-up, "It's a Cryin' Shame," flopped, and as Compass teetered on the brink of bankruptcy they exited the label. (Their early Compass sides were later packaged as First Impressions.) The Players then landed on Capitol, where 1969's "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" was a minor hit; an LP, Observations in Time, soon followed, with covers of "Summertime" and "Over the Rainbow" offering a strong hint of the stylistic detours to follow. In 1970 the group disbanded, however; Fears and Robinson both mounted solo careers, while the remaining members again decamped to Dayton, eventually re-forming with keyboardist, vocalist, and songwriter Walter "Junie" Morrison, trumpeter Bruce Napier, and trombonist Marvin Pierce. Influenced by the groundbreaking funk of Sly & the Family Stone -- and with the nasal, cartoon-voiced Bonner assuming vocal duties -- the new Ohio Players lineup made their debut with the single "Pain," issued on the small local label Rubber Town Sounds; it was soon picked up for distribution by the Detroit-based Westbound label, reaching the R&B Top 40 in late 1971. An LP, also titled Pain, appeared that same year, and was followed in 1972 by Pleasure, which launched the absurdist smash "Funky Worm." Ecstacy appeared in 1973, and after 1974's Climax, the Players signed to Mercury; the label change also heralded yet more lineup changes, with keyboardist Billy Beck replacing Morrison (who later signed on with Parliament) and drummer Jimmy "Diamond" Williams taking over for Webster. At Mercury, the Ohio Players enjoyed their greatest success; not only did their sound coalesce, but they became notorious for their sexually provocative LP covers, a tradition begun during their Westbound tenure. Their 1974 Mercury debut, Skin Tight, was their first unequivocal classic, launching the hit title track as well as "Jive Turkey." Its follow-up, Fire, remains the Players' masterpiece, topping the pop charts on the strength of its bone-rattling title cut, itself a number one hit; "I Want to Be Free," one of the band's few attempts at social commentary, was also highly successful. 1975's Honey -- which featured perhaps the Players' most controversial and erotic cover to date -- was another monster, generating the chart-topping masterpiece "Love Rollercoaster" in addition to the hits "Sweet Sticky Thing" and "Fopp." The insistent "Who'd She Coo?" from 1976's Contradiction, was the Players' last number one R&B hit; "O-H-I-O," from 1977's Angel, was their last major hit on any chart, and as the '70s drew to a close, the band's fortunes continued to decline. 1979's Jass-Ay-Lay-Dee was their final Mercury effort, and upon signing to Arista, the Players returned with Everybody Up, followed by a pair of dismal releases on Boardwalk, 1981's Tenderness and 1982's Ouch! After 1984's Graduation, four years passed prior to the release of their next effort, Back. No new material was forthcoming, although various lineups continued performing live well into the following decades. Despite the deaths of core members Satchell (December 1995), Middlebrooks (November 1997), Ward (December 2008), Johnson (February 2009), and Bonner (January 2013), the band continued to sporadically record and extensively tour. ~ Jason Ankeny
Read All Read Less

Albums by
Ohio Players

false

    6 songs

    On Air

    Skin Tight

    24 songs

    On Air

    More Funky Soul Party

    10 songs

    On Air

    Contradiction

    11 songs

    On Air

    Back

    16 songs

    On Air

    Groovin' With… Ohio Players

    18 songs

    On Air

    Ohio Players Classic Hits

    22 songs

    On Air

    The Best of Ohio Players

    18 songs

    On Air

    Greatest Hits: Ohio Players

    18 songs

    On Air

    Fan-Tastic Ohio Players

    11 songs

    On Air

    Try A Little Tenderness

    12 songs

    On Air

    Playas

    15 songs

    On Air

    Ecstasy

    11 songs

    On Air

    Summertime

    13 songs

    On Air

    Pain [Bonus Tracks]

    16 songs

    On Air

    Pleasure [Bonus Tracks]

    11 songs

    On Air

    Observations in Time

    8 songs

    On Air

    Everybody Up + Bonus Tracks

    8 songs

    On Air

    Fire - The Best Of

    9 songs

    On Air

    Ouch!

    9 songs

    On Air

    Tenderness

    6 songs

    On Air

    Jass-Ay-Lay-Dee

    8 songs

    On Air

    Fire

    7 songs

    On Air

    Honey

    6 songs

    On Air

    Skin Tight

See All Albums

Top Songs by
Ohio Players

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   Love Rollercoaster
  3.   Fire
  4.   Skin Tight
  5.   Sweet Sticky Thing
  6.   I Want to Be Free
  7.   Heaven Must Be Like This
  8.   Funky Worm
  9.   Who'd She Coo?
  10.   O-H-I-O
  11.   Climax aka Theme from 69
  12.   Pain
  13.   Jive Turkey
  14.   Honey
  15.   I Wanna Be Free
  16.   Skin Tight/FOPP
  17.   Let's Love
  18.   Medley
  19.   Love Rollercoaster
  20.   Satan's Boogie
  21.   I've Got to Hold On
  22.   Little Lady Maria
  23.   Alone
  24.   Streakin' Cheek to Cheek
  25.   Far East Mississippi
  26. See All Songs

Stations & Shows Featuring
Ohio Players

    On Air

    55 Greatest Old School Songs

    On Air

    Old-School BBQ

    On Air

    Funk

    On Air

    Need More Cowbell: The Countdown

    On Air

    Disco Hits

    On Air

    Disco Inferno

    On Air

    Prince: DNA

    On Air

    Classic Soul

    On Air

    '70s Hits

    On Air

    Red Hot Chili Peppers: DNA

    On Air

    James Brown: DNA

    On Air

    Funk Classics

    On Air

    Chicano Old School

    On Air

    My Parents' Record Collection

    On Air

    Disco Deep Dive

    On Air

    '70s Deep Dive

    On Air

    Grand Theft Radio

    On Air

    N.W.A.: DNA

    On Air

    Oldies

    On Air

    Sublime: DNA

    On Air

    Janet Jackson: DNA

    On Air

    Old School R&B

    On Air

    Classic Hits