Ohio Players

The Ohio Players were an American soul-funk band from Dayton that formed in 1959 as The Ohio Untouchables, releasing six singles under that name on Lu Pine and Thelma between 1962 and 1964. The band debuted the more familiar nameplate with the 1968 Capitol release Observations in Time, followed by three albums on Westbound in 1972 and 1973. The band entered its most popular phase with the 1974 Mercury release Skin Tight, followed by five further albums on that label through 1978.

Members: Marshall Jones (bass, 1959-84), Ralph Middlebrooks (trumpet, saxophone, trombone, 1959-84), Clarence Satchell (saxophone, flute, guitar, vocals, 1959-79), Cornelius Johnson (drums, 1959-63), Robert Ward (vocals, guitar, 1959-63), Leroy Bonner [Sugarfoot] (vocals, guitar, 1963-2013), Gregory Webster (drums, 1963-74), Dutch Robinson (piano, vocals, 1963-70), Bobby Lee Fears (vocals, 1963-70), Marvin Pierce (trombone, 1970-82), Norman Napier (trumpet, 1970-74), Walter “Junie” Morrison (keyboards, 1970-74), Charles Dale Allen (vocals, 1970-72), James Johnson (vocals, saxophone, 1972-74), James Williams (drums, percussion, vocals, 1974-present), Clarence Willis (guitar, vocals, 1974-present), Robert Jones (percussion, 1974-present), Billy Beck (keyboards, vocals, 1974-88, 2009-present), Darwin Dortch (bass, vocals, 1984-present), Ronald Nooks (keyboards, 1988-2009), Odeen Mays (vocals, keyboards, 1995-present)


Background

The Ohio Players formed as the Ohio Untouchables in 1959 Dayton, Ohio. The original lineup included bassist Marshall Jones and trumpeter Ralph Middlebrook, who both remained with the band for 25 years. Another co-founder, saxophonist Clarence “Satch” Satchell, stayed in the band until 1980. Initially, they served as the backing band for R&B vocal group The Falcons, which scored a national hit in 1959 with “You’re So Fine” (#17).

As the Ohio Untouchables, they issued the 1962 single “Love Is Amazing” (b/w “Forgive Me Darling”), followed by the 1964 release “I’m Tired” (b/w “Up Town”), both on the Detroit label Lu Pine Productions. Singer/guitarist Robert Ward took top billing on two further 1964 singles on the Thelma Record Co.: “Nobody Does Something for Nothing” and “Your Love Is Real” (b/w “I’m Gonna Cry a River”). Amid some acrimony, Ward departed that same year.

In 1965, the band hired drummer Gregory Webster and guitarist Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, who became their frontman. They change their name to the Ohio Players to reflect their state of origin and self-perception as ladies men. With the addition of several come-and-go vocalists (Bobby Lee Fears, Dutch Robinson, Helena Ferguson Kilpatrick), they became the house band for the New York-based Compass Records.


Early Singles

In September 1967, the Ohio Players released their debut single, “A Thing Called Love” (b/w “Neighbors”), on Tangerine, a label owned by Ray Charles and distributed by ABC–Paramount.

In September 1967, the Ohio Players released their second single, “Trespassin'” (b/w “You Don’t Mean It”), on Compass, a short-lived New York label that also issued singles by Jimmy Castor and English psychsters Episode Six (with Deep Purple mainstays Ian Gillan and Roger Glover).

In April 1968, the Ohio Players released their third single, “It’s a Crying Shame” (b/w “I’ve Got to Hold On”), also on Compass. All six of the Ohio Players’ 1967–68 sides appear with five additional early recordings on First Impressions, a 1972 compilation on Trip Records.


Observations in Time

The Ohio Players released their first album, Observations In Time, in 1969 on Capitol Records. It features eight group-written originals and three covers, including The Wizard of Oz theme “Over the Rainbow” and a seven-minute version of the Gershwin standard “Summertime.” Capitol issued two singles from the album: “Here Today and Gone Tomorrow” (b/w “Bad Bargain”) and “Over the Rainbow” (b/w “Find Someone to Love”).


1971–1973: The Westbound Years

The Ohio Players disbanded briefly in 1970 but reformed with a new lineup that featured Jones, Middlebrook, Webster, Bonner, Satchell, trumpeter Bruce Napier, vocalist Charles Dale Allen, trombonist Marvin Pierce, and keyboardist Walter “Junie” Morrison. The new nine-piece Ohio Players signed with the Detroit-based Westbound label.


Pain

The Ohio Players released their second album, Pain, in February 1972 on Westbound.

“Pain (Part 1)”


Pleasure

The Ohio Players released their third album, Pleasure, in December 1972 on Westbound.

“Pleasure”
“Varee Is Love”

“Funky Worm”
Released: January 16, 1973


Ecstasy

The Ohio Players released their fourth album, Ecstasy, in September 1973 on Westbound.

“Ecstasy”

“Sleep Talk”


Westbound Archival Comps

After the Ohio Players switched labels, Westbound issued two albums of leftover material and a greatest hits compilation.

Climax

Rattlesnake

Ohio Players Greatest Hits


1974–1978: The Mercury Years

In 1974, the Ohio Players signed to Mercury Records. Morrison cleared for keyboardist Billy Beck and Webster made way for drummer Jimmy “Diamond” Williams.


Skin Tight

The Ohio Players released their fifth proper album, Skin Tight, in April 1974 on Mercury.

“Jive Turkey (Part 1)”

“Skin Tight” (b/w “Heaven Must Be Like This”)

“Skin Tight” (Japan)


Fire

The Ohio Players released their sixth album, Fire, in November 1974 on Mercury.

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“Fire”
Released: November 1974

“I Want to Be Free”
Released: 1975


Honey

The Ohio Players released their seventh album, Honey, on August 16, 1975, on Mercury.

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“Sweet Sticky Thing”
Released: August 9, 1975

“Love Rollercoaster”
Released: November 9, 1975

“Fopp”
Released: February 1976


Contradiction

The Ohio Players released their eighth album, Contradiction, in March 1976 on Mercury.

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“Who’d She Coo?”
Released: February 1976

“Far East Mississippi”
Released: 1976


Gold

In October 1976, Mercury issued Gold, an eleven-track compilation of Ohio Players material on the label.


Angel

The Ohio Players released their ninth album, Angel, in March 1977 on Mercury.

“Body Vibes”

“O-H-I-O”

“Merry Go Round”


Mr. Mean

The Ohio Players released their tenth album, Mr. Mean, in December 1977 on Mercury.

“Good Luck Charm (Part 1)”

“Magic Trick” 


Jass-Ay-Lay-Dee

The Ohio Players released their eleventh album, Jass-Ay-Lay-Dee, in August 1978 on Mercury.

“Funk-O-Nots”

“Time Slips Away”


Later Albums


Everybody Up

The Ohio Players released their twelfth album, Everybody Up, in 1979 on Arista.

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“Everybody Up”


Tenderness

The Ohio Players released their thirteenth album, Tenderness, in March 1981 on Boardwalk.


Ouch!

The Ohio Players released their fourteenth album, Ouch!, in late 1981 on Boardwalk.


Graduation

The Ohio Players released their fifteenth album, Graduation, in 1984 on Century Vista.


Back

The Ohio Players released their sixteenth album, Back, in 1988 on Track Record.


Discography:

  • Observations in Time (1968)
  • First Impressions (1972)
  • Pain (1972)
  • Pleasure (1972)
  • Ecstasy (1973)
  • Skin Tight (1974)
  • Fire (1974)
  • Climax (1974)
  • Honey (1975)
  • Rattlesnake (1975)
  • Contradiction (1976)
  • Angel (1977)
  • Mr. Mean(1977)
  • Jass-Ay-Lay-Dee (1978)
  • Everybody Up (1979)
  • Ouch! (1981)
  • Tenderness (1981)
  • Graduation (1984)
  • Back (1988)
  • Jam [archival] (1996)

Sources:

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