The Ohio Players

Marshall "Rock" JonesBass guitar1959-1984
James "Diamond" WilliamsDrums, vocals1974-
Billy BeckKeyboards1974-
Leroy "Sugarfoot" BonnerGuitar, lead vocals1964-1997
Ralph "Pee Wee" MiddlebrooksTrumpet, trombone1959-1984
Clarence "Satch" SatchellSaxophone, flute1959-1980
Marvin "Merv" PierceTrumpet, trombone1972-1982
Walter "Junie" MorrisonKeyboards, lead vocals1970-1974
Cornelius JohnsonDrums1959-1964
Greg WebsterDrums1964-1974

The Ohio Players Artistfacts

  • Marshall Jones, Clarence Satchell, and Ralph Middlebrooks were members of The Ohio Untouchables, a Dayton-based blues band fronted by Robert Ward. They heated up the Dayton music scene, but Ward's habit of walking off stage in the middle of a set didn't sit well with his bandmates. Tensions escalated into a fistfight between Ward and Jones in 1964 and the band split up. The aforementioned trio went on to form a different group called the Ohio Players and brought on guitarist Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner, who shifted their sound into R&B funk.
  • Jones wanted a band name that would reflect their Ohio roots and their musical ability, hence the name Ohio Players. The rest of the guys liked the "Players" tag because it also boasted their romantic prowess with the ladies.
  • Their 1972 novelty hit "Funky Worm," featuring Walter "Junie" Morrison as the voice of a hip granny, was influential in the West Coast hip-hop scene of the '80s and '90s and was sampled in many rap tunes, including "Boom! Shake the Room" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince."
  • When the Ohio Players left Westbound Records for Mercury in 1974, Morrison stayed behind to pursue a solo career. Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner took his place as lead singer.
  • They established themselves as one of the hottest funk acts of the '70s with a trio of million-selling albums: Skin Tight, Fire, and Honey.
  • They boosted sales by featuring mostly nude models on their album covers. The famous cover of Honey, featuring Playboy Playmate Ester Cordet, not only earned the band their only Grammy Award (for Best Album Package), but also inspired an urban legend involving the mysterious scream on "Love Rollercoaster."
  • They had two chart-topping hits on the Billboard Hot 100: "Fire" and "Love Rollercoaster." The former was used as the theme song to the long-running reality show Hell's Kitchen. The latter was covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
  • Before joining the Ohio Players, 21-year-old Sugarfoot was a member of a blues band full of old timers who nearly stuck him with a different nickname: Tenderfoot. He recalled in a Billboard interview: "A little girl said, 'Don't call him Tenderfoot. He's a sugar.' So they started saying, 'He's a Sugarfoot.' It stuck with me and now I prefer to be called Sugar."
  • In 1979 the band ran into problems with the IRS when it was discovered that Satch had been using large amounts of undeclared income to write unauthorized checks. Satch was fired from the band and eventually served jail time for a couple years. The rest of the band also faced tax woes for not claiming a check from they received from the record company. They lost everything they had, including their houses. Sugarfoot explained in the band's Unsung episode: "We never got over that. We never got over that point that we had everything and then one second like that [snaps fingers] it's just gone."
  • Although their financial troubles pulled them apart, the band pressed on in various lineups throughout the '80s and '90s. Sugarfoot and Diamond even led separate groups under the Ohio Players name in the mid-2000s.
  • Most of the core band members have died. Satch died of a brain aneurysm in 1995 at age 55. Two years later, Pee Wee Middlebrooks died of cancer at age 55. Sugarfoot died of cancer in 2013 at age 69, and Jones died of cancer in 2016 at age 75. Former lead singer Junie Morrison also died in 2017 at age 62.


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