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Ohio Players

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, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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Wow!! Brings back great memories!!!!
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rf2nd
When fun was funk and funk was fun!
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i can listen to the ohio players any time, all the time
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jamesmoses46
fopp!!
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Love
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Oh the 70's, fun time with my croonies getting high, drinking Lancers or Mateus wine, ect., ect, ect
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Feel bad for satchel,midd l e brooks,bonne r , w a r d , a n d John.����
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bob223489
Fire.
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Must admit , as a young teen age boy, I really loved the Honey album cover.
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OHIO Players
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Heaven Must Be like this, is one of my favorite cuts.
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I love you Ohio players.
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Lay back, close your eyes, and as I kiss and caresses your body, let every doubt you've ever had, know from the depths of your soul, the love I have for you is true, it's as real as the air you breathe, to you my love, I bring the joy and satisfaction on knowing what it feels like to really understand and feel the true meaning of love, this is my gift to you
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califsquaw
What happened to the words to the song's? I really enjoyed that !
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dragonlady60 8 8
Op...the best.music
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Love it!!!!
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they just don't groove like that no more true musicianship Wow
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Bamboo. Columbus. Oh
Great. Song. It. Can. Happen. To. Anyone.
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Had the pleasure of meeting them at a concert in San Francisco. It was one of my friends birthday, he made a request that they play "Jive Turkey", they played it and let him come up on stage while played, great group, " Keepers of the Funk"
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It take you high and low twist you all around. Gbaby this.LOVE things
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Free is very good to some people you think
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This songs bring back in the day school music
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Free every body
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hob20705
I love the ohio player every since the Capitol center in Landover md
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I was in high school when this song came out....And love the this song one of my favorite group!!!!
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lear_award
In 1979 the OPs and me took several trips together ;)
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?
In 1979 I think Omar and I were on our way to see the Ohio players in Edinburgh tx when my freakin car broke down never made the concert. But have always loved the great Ohio players.
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Will always be one of the best bands of all time, if not the best! I will always love the Ohio Players.
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be happy guy
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Ohio Players one of the greatest funk rhythm n blues soul bands to have been around during those turbulent times of the 60s n 70s. Glad to have been there then. Evrn happier to be here now!
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soul and funky
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dragonlady60 8 8
I MISS THIS FUNKY STUFF!
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dragonlady60 8 8
OMG I LOVE THIS SONG ABD THE OP!
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19sandy62
Just like honey.....
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One of the best bands ever formed music as well as album covers ooooo
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mrbsmith1962
Felicia Brown where u from talk 2 me MRBSMITH 1962
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Hey,hey,oooo h h o o o h o o o !
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19sandy62
Heaven must be like this.......
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19sandy62
A taste of honey. ..mmm....
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19sandy62
One of my favorite funky group of the 70's
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"Is Anybody Gonna Be Saved" Shine-On
This Life is a Test,Final-E x a m Don't-Fail
Your-Future- D e p e n d z - O n - I t Pray
H-Town~Rocki n ' ~ W e - A i n ' t - S t o p i n ' - T h a - M u z i c
LOVE+S Disciple*978 * 1 * ~ 1 0 m 1 4 y ~
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Brings back fond memories of USNavy Hospital Corps School in Waukegan, Illinois.... . . w e boogied our anxiety-ridd e n BUTTS off 2 OPMusic!!!!! :-D :-\ :-D
God bless `em ALL!!!!! :-D
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THE OHIO PLAYERS IS ALWAYS ON POINT WHEN COME TO SINGING R.IP LEROY BONNER AND MR. SUGARFOOT MY MID WEST BROTHERS FROM DAYTON,OHIO SMILE....... . . .
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usta make love to my baby OP on the back groove...tho s e were the days of my summer
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I AM FREE
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ONE OF THE BADDEST BANDS EVER !!!!!!
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19sandy62
Great music. ....
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The best LP covers ever
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p51djm22
Fire is my favorite funk song of all time!
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MY MOTHER JAMMED OF THE OHIO PLAYERS!!!!! , M E M O R I E S ! ! ! ! ! . .
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