Ohio Players horn section - photo by Michael Sherer
The Dayton, Ohio area of the middle of the mid west isn’t known for much special, but musically they have a claim that is: The Ohio Players. This is one the premiere R & B/funk bands of the ‘late ‘60’s and ‘70’s that actually goes back in their first incarnation to ‘59 as the Ohio Untouchables. And they’re still around, albeit with many breaks along the way since the mid ‘80’s. None of the very original members are in the group, but two early ‘70’s guys are, that being drummer Jimmy “Diamond” Williams and keyboardist Billy Beck. Beck is a major contributor in the songwriting department.
With a three piece horn section of trombone, sax and trumpet adding to the bass heavy, romping funk, these guys tore up the house. ‘70’s classics such as Fire, Sweet Sticky Thing, I Want To Be Free, Heaven Must Be Like This, Love Rollercoaster, Who’d She Coo? and more were played at top level by the current band. I was especially impressed by bassist Darwin Dortch. The bass is, of course, so very key in funk type of music like this.
With the entire band locked in and swinging, the crowd was was really into it. A person next to me stood up and danced to some songs. The only problem with standing is that this venue is usually a seated one, (as it was on this night) so people behind him were blocked. But it’s not easy to stay contained with a blast of great sounding, vigorous R & B/funk of this caliber coming at you.
Diamond did the talking, and explained why he has the numbers ‘72 on his stick bag. He said it was the year he joined the band and because he was voted number 72 in a Rolling Stone drummers poll. (Or it could have been Modern Drummer magazine.)
Be sure to catch these mid westerners for anything but a middle of the road show. They’re front and center and in your face.