Ohio Players

Ohio Players were an American funk, soul music and R&B band, most popular in the 1970s. They are best known for their songs "Fire" and "Love Rollercoaster"; as well as for their erotic album covers that featured nude or nearly nude women. Many of the women were models featured in Playboy Magazine.

Ohio Players
Also known asThe Ohio Untouchables
OriginDayton, Ohio, United States
GenresFunk, R&B, soul
Years active1959 (1959)–present
LabelsCapitol[1] Westbound, Mercury, Arista, Boardwalk
Past membersCornelius Johnson
Ronnie "Diamond" Hoard
Walter "Junie" Morrison
Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner
Marshall "Rock" Jones
Robert "Kuumba" Jones
William "Billy" Beck
Wes Boatman
Ronnie "Diamond" Hoard
Michael "Slyde" Jennings
Dean Simms
Marvin "Merv" Pierce
Ralph "Pee Wee" Middlebrooks
Jimmy Sampson
Vincent Thomas
James "Diamond" Williams
Clarence "Chet" Willis
Shaun "Shaunie Mac" Dedrick
Ronald "Nooky" Nooks
Odeen "Deeno" Mays
Greg Webster
Bruce Napier
Andrew Noland
Clarence "Satch" Satchell
Bobby Lee Fears
Dutch Robinson
Robert Ward
Charles Dale Allen
Paul Machowsky

The singles "Funky Worm", "Skin Tight", "Fire", and "Love Rollercoaster"; as well as their albums Skin Tight, Fire, and Honey, were awarded Gold certifications.

On August 17, 2013, Ohio Players were inducted into the inaugural class of the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame that took place at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Ohio Players were also a formative influence on the hip-hop genre of G-Funk during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Their music was sampled more than 30 times by hip-hop artists from 1987 to 1992, including G-Funk pioneers Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Snoop Dogg.[2]


The band formed in Dayton, Ohio, United States, in 1959 as the Ohio Untouchables and initially included members Robert Ward[3] (vocals/guitar), Marshall "Rock" Jones (bass), Clarence "Satch" Satchell (saxophone/guitar), Cornelius Johnson (drums), and Ralph "Pee Wee" Middlebrooks (trumpet/trombone).[4] They were best known at the time as a backing group for The Falcons.[5]

Ward had proved to be an unreliable leader, who would sometimes, during gigs, walk off the stage, forcing the group to stop playing. Eventually, the group vowed to keep playing even after he left. Ward and Jones got into a fistfight in 1964, after which the group broke up.[6]

Ward found new backups, and the group's core members returned to Dayton. They replaced Ward with 21-year-old Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner (guitar), who would become the group's front man, and added Gregory Webster (drums).[5][6] To accommodate Bonner's musical style preferences for the group ("R&B with a little flair to it") and to avoid competing with Ward, the group changed their format.[6] By 1965, the group had renamed themselves Ohio Players, reflecting its members' self-perceptions as musicians and as ladies' men.[6]

The group added two more singers, Bobby Lee Fears and Dutch Robinson, and became the house band for the New York-based Compass Records. In 1967, they added vocalist Helena Ferguson Kilpatrick.

The group disbanded again in 1970. After again re-forming with a line-up including Bonner, Satchell, Middlebrooks, Jones, Webster, trumpeter Bruce Napier, vocalist Charles Dale Allen, trombonist Marvin Pierce, and keyboardist Walter "Junie" Morrison, the Players had a minor hit on the Detroit-based Westbound label with "Pain" (1971), which reached the Top 40 of the Billboard R&B chart. James Johnson joined the group at this time as vocalist and saxophonist. Dale Allen shared co-lead vocals on some of the early Westbound material, although he was not credited on their albums Pain and Pleasure.[7][8] It was at Westbound Records where the group met George Clinton, who admired their music. The two albums' avante-garde covers featured a spiked-black leather-bikini clad, bald model Pat "Running Bear" Evans, who would later grace additional Ohio Players albums, including Climax, Ecstasy, and Rattlesnake.[6][9][10][11][12]

The band's first big hit single was "Funky Worm", which reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart and peaked at #15 on the Hot 100 on 26 May 1973. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in May 1973.[13] The band signed with Mercury Records in 1974. By then, their line-up had changed again, with keyboardist Billy Beck instead of Morrison and Jimmy "Diamond" Williams on drums instead of Webster. On later album releases, they added second guitarist/vocalist Clarence "Chet" Willis and conguero Robert "Kuumba" Jones. Meanwhile, keyboardist Walter "Junie" Morrison recorded three albums on his own before joining Funkadelic as the force behind their hit One Nation Under a Groove. An internet story in advance of a June, 2017 concert indicated that Billy Beck, Jimmy "Diamond" Williams, Clarence "Chet" Willis, and Robert "Rumba" Jones are still performing.[14]

The band had seven Top 40 hits between 1973 and 1976. These included "Fire" (No. 1 on both the R&B and pop chart for two weeks and one week respectively in February 1975 and another million seller) and "Love Rollercoaster" (No. 1 on both the R&B and pop charts for one week in January 1976; another gold disc recipient).[13] The group also took on saxophonist James Johnson. The group's last big hit was "Who'd She Coo?" a No. 1 R&B hit in August 1976. It was their only success in the United Kingdom, where it peaked at No. 43 on the UK Singles Chart in July 1976.[15] Their title track "Ecstasy" from the 1973 album "Ecstasy (Ohio Players album)" was sampled by "Jay-Z" on "Brooklyn's Finest" featuring "The Notorious B.I.G." from the 1996 album "Reasonable Doubt".[16]

In 1979, three members of the group went on to form Shadow,[4][17] which released three albums. A reconfigured Ohio Players recorded across the 1980s, enjoying a minor hit single with "Sweat" (1988). They also released three albums in that decade, Tenderness, Ouch! and Graduation. Another collection, Orgasm, followed in 1993.[4]

In August 2013, the Ohio Players were inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame at the Waetjen Auditorium of Cleveland State University as part of the inaugural class.


  • Clarence Satchell (born April 15, 1940) died December 30, 1995 after suffering a brain aneurysm at the age of 55;[18]
  • Ralph Middlebrooks (born August 20, 1939) died in November 1997 of cancer;[19][20]
  • Vincent Thomas ("Venny Wu"), (born January 26, 1958) died February 16, 2008, of cancer, in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas.
  • Robert Ward (born October 15, 1938) died at home December 25, 2008.[21]
  • Cornelius Johnson (born July 12, 1937) died February 1, 2009.[22]
  • Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner (born March 14, 1943, Hamilton, Ohio) died January 26, 2013 at age 69 of cancer.[23]
  • Marshall "Rock" Jones (born January 1, 1941, Dayton, Ohio), the last surviving member from the Ohio Untouchables line-up, died of cancer on May 27, 2016 in Houston, Texas, at age 75.[5][24][25]
  • Walter "Junie" Morrison died in February 2017, aged 62.[26][27]
  • Shaun Dedrick died May 2, 2018, at age 55, following an illness, in Dayton, Ohio.


Classic lineup

Other members

  • Robert Ward – guitar (1959–1964)
  • Cornelius Johnson – drums (1959–1964)
  • Gregory "Greg" Webster – drums (1964–1974)
  • Bobby Lee Fears – vocals (1964–1970)
  • Dutch Robinson – vocals (1964–1970)
  • Helena Ferguson Kilpatrick – vocals (1967–unknown)
  • Charles Dale Allen – vocals (1970?–unknown)
  • Bruce Napier – trumpet (1972–1974)
  • Walter "Junie" Morrisonkeyboards (1970–1974)
  • James Johnson – vocals, saxophone (1971?–unknown)
  • Clarence "Chet" Willis – guitars (1977–1980; unknown–present)
  • Robert "Kuumba" Jones – congas (1977–present)
  • Wes Boatman – keyboards (1980–1981)
  • Jimmy Sampson – drums (1981–1982)


Studio albums

Year Album Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales threshold)
Record label

1969 Observations in Time Capitol
1972 Pain 177 21 Westbound
Pleasure 63 4
1973 Ecstasy 70 19
1974 Skin Tight 11 1 15 Mercury
Fire 1 1 17
1975 Honey 2 1 36
1976 Contradiction 12 1 26
1977 Angel 41 9 58
Mr. Mean 68 11 65
1978 Jass-Ay-Lay-Dee 69 15
1979 Everybody Up 80 19 Arista
1981 Tenderness 165 49 Boardwalk
Ouch! 201
1984 Graduation Century Vista
1988 Back 55 Track Record
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Live albums

Compilation albums

Year Album Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales threshold)
Record label

1972 First Impressions Trip
1974 The Ohio Players 32 Capitol
Climax 102 24 Westbound
1975 Greatest Hits 92 22
Rattlesnake 61 8
1976 Gold 31 10 28 Mercury
1977 The Best of the Early Years, Vol. 1 58 Westbound
1995 Funk on Fire: The Mercury Anthology Mercury
1998 Orgasm: The Very Best of the Westbound Years Westbound
2000 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection - The Best of Ohio Players Mercury
2008 Gold [2008] [34][35] Island/Mercury
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


Year Single Peak chart positions

1967 "Neighbors"
1968 "Trespassin'" 50
"It's a Crying Shame"
1969 "Bad Bargain"
"Find Someone to Love"
1971 "Pain (Part 1)" 64 35 91
1972 "Pleasure" 45
"Varee Is Love"
1973 "Funky Worm" 15 1 50
"Ecstasy" 31 12
"Sleep Talk"
1974 "Jive Turkey (Part 1)" 47 6 71
"Skin Tight" 13 2 19
"Fire" [A] 1 1 5
1975 "I Want to Be Free" 44 6 51
"Sweet Sticky Thing" 33 1 60
"Love Rollercoaster" 1 1 2
1976 "Fopp" 30 9 43
"Rattlesnake" 90 69
"Who'd She Coo?" 18 1 63 43
"Far East Mississippi" 26
1977 "Feel the Beat (Everybody Disco)" 61 31
"Body Vibes" 19
"O-H-I-O" 45 9 88
"Merry Go Round" 77
"Good Luck Charm (Part 1)" 101 51
1978 "Magic Trick" 93
"Funk-O-Nots" 105 27
"Time Slips Away" 53
1979 "Everybody Up" 33
1981 "Try a Little Tenderness" 40
"Skinny" 46
"The Star of the Party"
1984 "Sight for Sore Eyes" 83
1988 "Sweat" 50
"Let's Play (From Now On)" 33
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


See also


  1. "Ohio Players". Discogs.
  2. "Anatomy of the Funk: G-Funk Deconstructed". CentralSauce.com. 2019-06-17. Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  3. "The Untouchable Soul of Robert Ward". Rubbercityreview.com.
  4. Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 917/8. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  5. McGinn, Andrew (May 30, 2009). "Ohio Players bassist retires to funky town — Jamestown". Springfield News-Sun. Cox Media Group. Archived from the original on October 3, 2010. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
  6. "Season 4/Episode 31- 'The Story of The Ohio Players'". Unsung. July 4, 2011.
  7. "Pain - Ohio Players | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
  8. "Pleasure - Ohio Players | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
  9. "The Bald & The Beautiful". art nouveau. November 23, 2011. Archived from the original on October 1, 2017. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  10. "The Ohio Players Ladies". Hymie's Vintage Records. May 17, 2011.
  11. Sweetlocs (November 6, 2012). "10 Pioneering Models of Color". Eric Roberson Music. Archived from the original on May 25, 2014. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  12. Uwumarogi, Victoria (February 12, 2014). "Black Beauties to Know and Love: Model Pat Evans". Madame Noire.
  13. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 332, 348, 349 & 362. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  14. "R&B and funk music to take over the Rose this week". Dayton.com. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  15. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 405. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  16. "Breaking Down Every C Contributor For Jay-Z's 'Reasonable Doubt'". read.tidal.com.
  17. "Shadow Page". Soulwalking.co.uk.
  18. Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 1994 - 1995". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
  19. Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 1996 - 1997". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
  20. "In Remembrance Ralph Middlebrooks". Discomuseum.net. 1939-08-20. Archived from the original on 2015-07-13. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
  21. Cartwright, Garth (March 4, 2009). "Obituary: Robert Ward". The Guardian. Retrieved June 29, 2011.
  22. "Ohio Players Page". Soulwalking.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
  23. "My WTLC Playlist honors Leroy 'Sugarfoot' Bonner of The Ohio Players". Tlcnaptown.com. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
  24. Robinson, Amelia. "Legendary Ohio Players member dies". Dayton.com.
  25. Vacher, Peter (May 27, 2016). "Ohio Players bassist Marshall Jones dies at 75". Philadelphia Tribune. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  26. Kaufman, Gil (February 16, 2017). "Ohio Players Keyboardist and Producer Walter 'Junie' Morrison Dies". Billboard. Retrieved February 17, 2017.
  27. Grow, Kory (February 16, 2017). "Junie Morrison, Parliament-Funkadelic and Ohio Players Member, Dead at 62". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 17, 2017.
  28. "US Albums Charts > Ohio Players". Allmusic. Retrieved June 8, 2010.
  29. "CAN Charts > Ohio Players". RPM. Archived from the original on September 26, 2015. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  30. "US Certifications > Ohio Players". Recording Industry Association of America. Archived from the original on November 21, 2010. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  31. "Ohio Players - Ol'School (CD, Album)". Discogs.com. 1995-12-02. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
  32. "Ohio Players - Jam (CD)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
  33. "Ohio Players - Live 1977 (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
  34. "Gold [2008] - Ohio Players | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. 2008-03-11. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
  35. "Gold (2)". Muziekweb.nl. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
  36. "US Singles Charts > Ohio Players". AllMusic. Retrieved June 8, 2010.
  37. Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 567. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.
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