Like most other notable funk acts, the Ohio Players kinetic mix of percussion, loping bass lines, and stabbing horn flourishes owed much to Sly and the Family Stone’s progressive rock-soul fusion of the late 1960s. In terms of both recording productivity and career longetivity, the group was unrivaled within the funk genre.
The band was formed in 1959, in Dayton, as Greg Webster and the Ohio Untouchables. Early on, they played behind the R&B vocal group, the Falcons, appearing on recordings such as the hit, "I Found a Love" (Lupine 1003; 1962; #6 R&B). With the addition of three members from an area band, they became known as the Ohio Players.
Although they had first recorded on their own for Lupine in 1963, their stint as the studio group for Compass Records in 1967-1968 proved to be something of a breakthrough. In addition to releasing singles under their own name, they produced a number of demo tapes, one of which was released as Observations in Time by Capitol (#192; 1969). Moving on to Westbound Records in the early 1970s, the band enjoyed one big hit, "Funky Worm" (Westbound 214; 1973; #1 R&B, #15 pop), which revealed their penchant for tongue-in-cheek humor. They also established another tradition during this period: marketing through provocative album covers typically featuring scantily-clad women in sexually-suggestive poses.
Signing with the Mercury label in 1974, the Players began a highly successful commercial run which included the following albums: Skin Tight (Mercury 705; 1974; #11; featuring the single, "Skin Tight," #2 R&B, #13 pop), Fire (Mercury 1013; 1974; #1; featuring "Fire," #1 R&B, #1 pop), Honey (Mercury 1038; 1975; #2; featuring "Love Rollercoaster,: #1 R&B, #1 pop), Contradiction (Mercury 1088; 1976; #12), Ohio Players Gold (Mercury 1122; 1976; #31), and Angel (Mercury 3701; 1977; #41). By the time the group had switched to Arista Records in 1979, their popularity had dropped off considerably. They continued to record for a variety of labels in the 1980s—including Accord, Boardwalk, Air City, and Track—with only intermittent success. With the advent of compact discs, many of the band’s classic albums were reissued (along with assorted hit collections such as PolyGram’s Funk on Fire: The Mercury Anthology, released in 1995). Despite the death of two longtime members—saxophonist "Satch" Mitchell and trumpeter "Pee Wee" Middlebrooks—in the 1990s, the band has continued to tour up to the present day.
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