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Ohio Players
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Ohio Players

The Ohio Players are a funk band whose heyday was in the mid- to late 1970s. They 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). The Ohio Untouchables broke up in 1963, with Ward leaving for a solo career, but the core members of the group returned to Dayton and added Gary Webster (drums) and Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner (guitar) in 1964. The group added two more singers, Bobby Lee Fears and Dutch Robinson, and became the house band for New York City-based Compass Records in 1967.

The group disbanded again in 1970. After again reforming with a line-up including Bonner, Satchell, Middlebrooks, Jones, Webster, trumpeter Bruce Napier, trombonist Marvin Pierce, and keyboardist Walter "Junie" Morrison, the Players had a minor hit on the Detroit-based Westbound label in 1971 with "Pain," which reached the Billboard R&B Top 40. The band signed with Mercury Records in 1974; by this time their lineup had changed again, with keyboardist Billy Beck instead of Morrison and Jimmy "Diamond" Williams on drums instead of Webster. Bonner sang lead vocals on most of the band's hits.

The band’s first big hit was “Funky Worm,” which hit #1 on the Billboard R&B Charts and made the pop Top 15 in May 1973. The band had seven more Top 40 hits between 1973 and 1976, including the smashes "Fire" (#1 on both the R&B and pop charts for two weeks and one week respectively in February 1975) and "Love Rollercoaster" (#1 on both the R&B and pop charts for 1 week in January 1976). The group's last big hit was "Who'd See Coo," a #1 R&B hit in August 1976. The band became widely known not only for their sound, which has been sampled and copied by countless R&B; and hip-hop artists since, but for their sexually provocative album covers, including the cover of 1974's Ecstasy, which featured a man and a woman in a pose of arousal wearing chains and leather, and 1975's Honey, which featured a nude woman holding an overflowing jar of honey and dropping some into her mouth with a ladle. There is also an urban legend that has it that a scream on "Love Rollercoaster" that came before the second verse was the sound of someone being killed in the studio while the track was being recorded. [1] The band did not discredit this rumor at the time, because, as one band member put it later, "that makes you sell more records."

Clarence Satchell died in January 1996 after he had a brain aneurysm. Ralph Middlebrooks died in November 1997.