he Ohio Players had been together for 15 years, in on incarnation or another, before they suddenly leaped out of obscurity to become one of the oldest, established, permanent "overnight successes" in the rock era.
However, two of the Untouchables -- reedman Clarence "Satch" Satchell and bassist Marshall "Rock" Jones -- decided to take another shot. Recruiting some local Dayton musicians, they put together a new ensemble called the Ohio Players. They worked as the house band for Compass Records, recording demo tapes on their own time. One of their tapes found its way to Capitol Records, and the Hollywood-based label signed the group in 1969.
Following the unsuccessful Observations in Time album, the Players pooled $400 for a trip to Nashville to record their next LP, Pain, which was released by Westbound Records of Detroit. Adopting an ultra-funky style strongly influenced by Sly Stone, the group began its ascent to the top with their first bona fide hit, "Funky Worm" (number 15 in May, 1973). Their three albums for the label featured pulsating rhythms and suggestive cover art, featuring a bald, scantily-clad female model in various poses of sexual bondage.
The Ohio Players were a study in democracy. Every one in the band contributed to each song. One might write lyrics, another the melody line, but each would make his impact. The approach worked so well because the Players saw few personnel changes in its glory days. Blessed with a crew of versatile musicians, the group often would use more than 20 instruments to get the sound it wanted.
When the Ohio Players switched to Mercury in 1974, their first album for the label, Skin Tight, outsold the three Westbound releases within three months. The title track became their biggest pop hit yet, peaking at number 13 in October, 1974.
The cover of their next album, Fire, revealed a gorgeous model wearing a fireman's helmet (and little else) and erotically fondling a hose. But if the artwork was hot, the sounds inside were blazing. Released in November, 1974, Fire was certified gold in two weeks. The title track entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 73 on December 14, 1974, and moved to number one eight weeks later.
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.
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