CINCINNATI — Leroy “Sugarfoot" Bonner, frontman for the hit-making funk music band the Ohio Players, has died. He was 69.
No cause of death has been reported.
The Ohio Players, known for their brassy dance music, catchy lyrics and flamboyant outfits, topped music charts in the 1970s with hits such as “Love Rollercoaster," “Fire," “Skin Tight" and “Funky Worm."
Born in Hamilton, Ohio, Bonner teamed up in the 1960s with core members of a group called the Ohio Untouchables to form the Ohio Players. The band had a string of Top 40 hits in the mid-1970s and continued to perform for years after that. He had remained active in recent years with a spinoff band called Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players.
“Humble yet charismatic, soft-spoken and of few words, the weight of his thoughts, lyrics and music has influenced countless other artists, songs and trends," stated a posting attributed as an “official family announcement" on the Facebook page of Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players. “He will be missed but not forgotten as his legacy and music lives on."
Bonner had said he learned about music in Hamilton, where he was the oldest of a large family, playing harmonica, learning guitar and sneaking into bars as an adolescent to play with adult musicians. He said he ran away from home at age 14, and told the Hamilton Journal News in 2009 that he had only gone back there once. He explained he had bad memories of growing up poor.
He wound up in Dayton, where he connected with the players who would form the band. Their lineup changed at times, but featured horns, bass, guitar, drums and keyboards.
“We were players. We weren’t trying to be lead singers, but we became one of the first crossover singing bands," Bonner told the Dayton Daily News in a 2003 interview.
While the band used sexual innuendo, Bonner said he didn’t relate to some of the explicit lyrics and attitudes of later pop music and rap.
“There is nothing but the old school and the new fools," he said. “It’s a shame the way these artists are preaching badness to a drumbeat."