Ohio Players to bring fiery funk to Music FestWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | email@example.com
The Ohio Players have a reputation for cool horn-powered jams, soulful R&B, smoldering funk and steamy album covers.
“Music is one thing, and then we thought about the packaging thereof. We’re just some old rusty-looking guys; nobody would look at us for nothing, especially guys,” said drummer and vocalist James “Diamond” Williams. “We thought we could get guys to look at our album cover by putting a nice-looking, attractive woman on there.
“Now the young ladies know that the Ohio Players are guys and we’re singing to the women,” he said. “So we mixed the two — the album cover and the music. We made a nice sandwich that could be packaged and sold, and it’s done pretty well. We’ve probably sold as many album covers as we have singles, but who’s counting?”
The band sold a lot of records in the 1970s thanks to a string of hits: “Fire,” “Love Rollercoaster,” “Skin Tight,” “Funky Worm,” “Sweet Sticky Thing,” “Who’d She Coo.”
“To get out on the road and hear in various cities that you go to your music being played was absolutely phenomenal,” said Williams, who joined the group in 1972. “And to hear your music on a plane 35 years ago was unbelievable for a band, a black band, in particular.”
He recalled a memorable moment: “Elton John was No. 1 on the pop charts, and we were at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, and we had just topped him (with the 1974 “Fire” album) to take No. 1 on the pop charts and on the R&B charts overseas.”
“Fire” rages on as the theme song for the TV show, “Hell’s Kitchen.”
“As a writer, you always want to write a song like ‘White Christmas,’ you know, one of those songs that plays every year or when you think about a title, you immediately think about a song,” Williams said. “When you think about the concept of fire, very thankfully, people think about our song.”
During a phone interview from his home in Dayton, the songwriter talked about what makes a tune great.
“Being a drummer, I’d have to say it’s the beat. I used to listen to Dick Clark as a kid growing up — this will be part of my book — and when they would play songs and ask kids what they liked about the song, when it was a hit, most kids said, ‘I like the beat.’ That got me right then; I thought I’m going to control the beat. I think the beat controls the vibe of the song.”
In addition to writing an autobiography, Williams is busy with the band working on a disc that should be finished next year. Fans can go to loverollercoaster.com, give their email address and receive a free download of the new single, “This Is Your Night.”
It’ll be the Ohio Players’ night at the University of Toledo’s Music Fest at 7:45 p.m. Aug. 31.
Taking the stage with Williams will be rhythm guitarist and vocalist Clarence “Chet” Willis, keyboardists Ronald Nooks and Odeen Mays, bassist and vocalist Darwin Dortch, percussionist Robert “Kumba” Jones, trombonist Johnny Cotton, trumpeter Ken Anderson and saxophonist Michael Turner.
“We’re at a stage in our career where we’re trying to give back; we’ve already received more than we could ever believe in our lifetime,” Williams said. “We’re doing this because we love it, and we love the fact that we’ve been able to create music that brings back good memories for people, and good memories are always things to be cherished.”
University of Toledo Music Fest
Aug. 31, Free, mall area across from Memorial Field House on main campus
• 2:45 p.m. Abigail Stauffer
• 4:15 p.m. Glen Templeton
• 5:30 p.m. Pep rally for the UT football team
• 6 p.m. Alexander Zonjic and Friends
• 7:45 p.m. Ohio Players
• 9:30 p.m. Cartel
• 10:45 p.m. Fireworks