Back when everything coming out of the radio was funky, the Ohio Players were amongst the funkiest. In the early ’70s they’d had a modest run of important and mildly commercially successful releases that were fronted by keyboardist and vocalist, Junie Morrison. Their string of dope and provocatively titled albums “Pain”, “Pleasure”, “Climax” and “Ecstasy” were required listening. The album covers were crazy. Classic color flicks of hotties covered in honey, provocatively dressed as fireman, wearing leather, and chains or tantalizingly threatening to tame undisciplined lovers with whips. The music was progressive; a combination of jazz, blues, gospel and acid that stuck to your ribs like home cooking. They were the truth.
A dispute within the band and with their label, caused them to leave the independently distributed Westbound Records and sign with Mercury, one of the corporate recording giants of the era, and to switch lead vocalists to the blues influenced guitarist, Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner. These proved to be fortuitous decisions.
It was early ’74 when the newly configured Players released “Skintight” the title track from the classic album for Mercury and begin what ultimately proved to be the commercial and creative peak for the band. This was also the first single that featured “Sugarfoot” on lead vocals. He was blusey, churcy and street all at the same time. His guitar perfecly complimented his lustful and tender features on “Fire”, “Love Rollercoaster” and the classic, “Heaven Must Be Like This”. A few hours ago, I found out that “Sugarfoot” died, the world is a little less funky tonight. RIP