The Ohio Players are the Godfathers of Dayton Funk. Starting out as early ’60s R&B club band the Ohio Untouchables, the group grew progressively looser and funkier by decade’s end, particularly after the addition of keyboardist Walter “Junie” Morrison. The Ohio Players broke through with three albums on the Westbound label (Pain, Pleasure, Ecstasy, 1972-1973) but went stratospheric after signing with Mercury. By that point, guitarist Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner’s distinctive “Ow!” lead vocals were as recognizable as the band’s risqué album covers. The unforgettable Fire, Skin Tight and Honey records went Platinum, and Ohio Players were one of the few funk bands to score two #1 pop singles: “Fire” (1975) and “Love Rollercoaster” (1976). The band’s popularity cooled somewhat during the disco era, but they proved incredibly influential on the next generation of Dayton, Ohio funkateers (including Zapp & Roger, Slave, and Lakeside) as well as Prince, Rick James, and Red Hot Chili Peppers (who returned “Love Rollercoaster” to the charts in the ’90s). Although several classic-era members have passed away over the years, the Ohio Players continue to tour with four musicians from their heyday in the current lineup.
Did you know?
- The Ohio Players’ recordings have been sampled 636 times according to WhoSampled.com, including on tracks by superstars like Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G., OutKast, Snoop Dogg, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Mary J. Blige
- The classic lineup were all known by nicknames: Marshall “Rock” Jones, Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, Ralph “Pee Wee” Middlebrooks, Marvin “Merv” Pierce, Clarence “Satch” Satchell, James “Diamond” Williams, William “Billy” Beck
- After leaving the Ohio Players, Walter “Junie” Morrison became the musical director for George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic empire in the late ’70s