Friday, July 22, 2011

The Ohio Players

It was way back in the year 1959 that a band formed in Dayton,Ohio called the Ohio Untouchables (no matter where you're from geographically, this is an eminently cool name for a band). This band included Robert Ward on guitar and vocals, bassist Marshall "Rock" Jones, Clarence "Satch" Satchell on saxophone and guitar, drummer Cornelius Johnson  and Ralph "Pee Wee" Middlebrooks on trumpet and trombone. They were the backup band for the Detroit vocal group The Falcons until they broke up in 1963. The core group members returned to Dayton and re-formed adding Gregory Webster on drums and Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner on guitar. Bonner would eventually become the group's frontman. Adding two more singers, Bobby Lee Fears and Dutch Robinson, they became the house band for the New York based Compass Records in 1967.

 In 1970 the line-up changed again with Bonner, Satchell, Middlebrooks, Jones and Webster being joined by vocalist Charles Dale Allen, trumpeter Bruce Napier, trombonist Marvin Peirce and future Parliament-Funkadelic member William "Junie" Morrison on keyboards. By this time calling themselves The Ohio Players, they had a minor hit on the Westbound label with the song "Pain" which managed to make the top 40 RnB chart.

The first big hit for the band was "Funky Worm", a humorous and wickedly funky tune similar in approach to Kool And The Gang's equally delightful "Funky Man". This one went to #1 on the RnB chart and made the top 20 on Billboard's Top 100. Selling over a million copies, it went gold in May of 1973. Signing to Mercury Records in 1974, a further line-up change occurred with Billy Beck and Jimmy "Diamond" Williams replacing Morrison and Webster respectively. The band had seven top 40 hits between the years of 1973 and 1976 including "Skin Tight", "Fire" and the iconic "Love Rollercoaster" which along with "Fire" went to #1 on both the pop and RnB charts.

The group's last hit was "Who'd She Coo?" which was their only U.K. chart success, peaking at #43 .
Clarence Satchell died of a brain aneurysm on December 30, 1995. Ralph Middlebrooks passed away in November of 1997. Robert Ward died at home on December 25, 2008.
The band has most recently been touring billed as Sugarfoot's Ohio Players.


  1. Man, that is some serious funk. Very fun to listen (or dance) to. Bit before my time (I was ~3 when this all went down) but you can't deny their funkalicious sound.

  2. Definitely one of the best of the 70s funk bands. Always worth a listen for their raw,no frills approach to the style.