Billy Beck - percussion, keyboards, vocals; Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner - guitar, percussion, vocals; Marshall "Rock" Jones - bass; Robert "Rumba" Jones - conga; Ralph "Pee Wee" Middlebrooks - trombone, trumpet; Mervin Pierce - trombone, trumpet, flugelhorn; Clarence "Satch" Satchell - flute, percussion, sax, vocals; James "Diamond" Williams - percussion, drums, vocals
Music fans under the age of 25 may have first discovered the music of The Ohio Players when their classic '70s pop/funk/jam "Fire" became the anchor song in the action film Ladder 49 some years back. But the reality is that The Ohio Players date back to 1959, when they were a backup band for various R&B singers, calling themselves the Ohio Untouchables.
The group changed members and their base of operations a number of times through the next decade, with Detroit and later Dayton, Ohio being the main locations. This was due largely to the labels they were signed to at that given time. Made up of exceptional soul musicians, The Ohio Players were greatly influenced by the legendary Sly & the Family Stone. In 1972, The Ohio Players signed with Westbound Records (home of George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic), with Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner at the helm doing most of the lead vocals.
This recording captures the Players at their funkiest, coincident with their commercial peak. Opening with "Love Rollercoaster" and closing with a 30-minute-plus version of "Fire," the band played an incredibly tight set, exuding funk and soul grooves like they were playing for their lives. Though not quite as sophisticated as the acts that came out of Stax, as energetic as James Brown, or as commercially viable as the best Motown acts, The Ohio Players provided a gritty and well-rounded horn-driven show that made them one of the hardest working touring bands of the '70s.
The band has continued through most of the '90s and into the current decade with Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner at the helm. Over thirty years later these funk/rock classics still hold up.