Dayton’s mighty The Ohio Players deserve a spot in Rock Hall of Fame

This commentary by Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Sunday, Feb. 7.



Few things say rock and roll as clearly as keyboardist Billy Beck’s high-pitched scream before the lyrics kick in and the song “Love Rollercoaster” sends listeners up and down hills with “oohh oohh oohhs.”

This says nothing of “Fire,” “Funky Worm,” “Skin Tight,” “O-H-I-O,” “Sweet Sticky Thing,” “I want to be free” or “Jive Turkey.”

Yet the Ohio Players, Beck’s then band and Dayton’s always pride, seemingly remain as far outside Rock and Roll Hall of Fame contention as a tone deaf jive turkey.

As my colleague Don Thrasher wrote in an article last December, Daytonian Keith Jenkins of the Oniru Group and Sculptures of Sound Music created a drive to get attention for the Players.

Credit: Dayton Daily News File

Credit: Dayton Daily News File

The Players were a big deal as the petition signed by 2,500 people explains.

It reads in part:

“The Ohio Players began as ‘The Ohio Untouchables’ in 1959 and have thus made music for 61 years; and still scheduled to tour in 2021. Yet with this rich legacy and genre molding influence, they have not been inducted into the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

“Their illustrious career has produced 14 Top 20 hits, with six No. 1 songs, two No. 1 pop albums at a time when the greatest collection of modern music legends performed, such as The Beatles, Queen, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Presley, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Jackson 5, Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra and many others.

“They also scored 14 gold and platinum records with three consecutive platinum albums (a feat unparalleled for funk bands).”

More than that, they were musicians with Afros envied by the gods.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many great bands, but I argue that few had the lasting impact of the Ohio Players.

In the 1970s and 1980s, southwestern Ohio ― particularly Dayton’s West Side ― was known for its stable of funk bands that included Zapp and Roger, Faze-O, Heatwave, Sun, Slave and Lakeside.

Their influence can be heard in hip-hop, house and other musical forms popular today through sampling, covers and remixes.

The Ohio Players ― the granddaddies of ‘em all ― have seen their songs sampled or remade by Snoop Dogg, Puff Daddy, Russ, Jay-Z, Salt-N-Pepa, Soundgarden, Action Bronson, A Tribe Called Quest, Mary J. Blige and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The Ohio Players’ manager James “Diamond” Williams, one of Rolling Stone magazine’s greatest 100 drummers of all-time, still performs with the band, but many of the band’s core members have died.

I certainly do not know what could get the attention of the 30 or so members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation nominating committee based in New York. I wish there were some sort of fire alarm I could pull or siren I could ignite.

I’d tell them that the Ohio Players formed in Dayton made an undeniable impact on the American music known as rock. They ramped up the bassline and were and are on “the one.”

The Ohio Players’ musical legacy lives on.

It is shameful that they have not received the national recognition they deserve inside the celebrated music hall on the shore of this state’s Lake Erie.

Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson has written a column for the Dayton Daily News since 2006.

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