Ohio Players (formed in 1959) is an acclaimed American funk and R&B group who enjoyed their greatest success in the 1970s, notably with their No. 1 album “Fire”, hailing from Dayton, Ohio, U.S.
Originally comprised of vocalist/guitarist Robert Ward, bassist Marshall Jones, saxophonist/guitarist Clarence Satchell, drummer Cornelius Johnson, and trumpet/trombone player Ralph Middlebrooks in 1959, at this time the group was the backing band for the R&B group Falcons. Disappointed with Ward’s unreliable leadership, the band moved back to Dayton, Ohio, found a replacement in singer Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, and changed their name to the Ohio Players.
With the addition of trumpeter Bruce Napier, vocalist Charles Dale Allen, and trombonist Marvin Pierce, the group found modest success with their 1971 single “Pain”. The accompanyng LP “Pain” arrived shortly afterwards, followed a year later by the full-length “Pleasure”. Spawning their biggest hit to date, “Funky Worm”, “Pleasure” was influenced by the funk of Sly & the Family Stone, and made way for “Ecstasy” in 1973.
Following the release of 1974’s “Climax” the band signed with Mercury Records, and underwent a number of lineup changes. The Ohio Players subsequently became known for their sexually alluring LP covers, beginning with 1974’s “Skin Tight”, which spawned their most quintessential track to date “Jive Turkey”. The following year the Ohio Players enjoyed their greatest success with their No. 1 album “Fire”, led by the No. 1 title track and subsequent No. 1, “I Want to Be Free”. Heralded as the Ohio Players’ masterpiece, the record combined seductive soulful vocals, the groove and beat of funk, and the alluring poetry of R&B to create something timeless.
The band’s subsequent release, 1975’s “Honey” also found favour among fans and critics alike, aided by the instantly-recognisable smash hit single “Love Rollercoaster”. As the seventies marched on so did the Ohio Players, achieving their last R&B No. 1 in 1976 with the single “Who’d She Coo?”, taken from the full-length “Contradiction”. 1978’s full-length “Jass-Ay-Lay-Dee” proved to be the last release on Mercury Records, and after signing with Arista, released the studio album “Everybody Up” in 1979. Undeterred by falling sales, the band released a series of albums in the 1980s on the labels Boardwalk, Century Vista, and Track Record, including “Tenderness”, “Ouch”, and “Back”.