Lead singer for pop­u­lar funk band Ohio Play­ers

The Washington Post Sunday - - OBITUARIES - BY DAN SEWELL

Leroy “Su­gar­foot” Bon­ner, front­man for the hit-mak­ing funk band the Ohio Play­ers, died Jan. 26 near Day­ton, Ohio. He was 69.

A spokes­woman for the New­comer Funeral Home in the Day­ton sub­urb of Ket­ter­ing con­firmed the death. There was also a post­ing about his death on his cur­rent band’s Face­book page. No other in­for­ma­tion was im­me­di­ately re­leased about his death.

The Ohio Play­ers, known for their brassy dance mu­sic, catchy lyrics and flam­boy­ant out­fits, topped mu­sic charts in the 1970s with such hits as “Love Roller­coaster,” “Fire,” “Skin Tight” and “Funky Worm.”

Mr. Bon­ner was born in Hamil­ton, Ohio, north of Cincin­nati, and said he learned about mu­sic by sneak­ing into bars as an ado­les­cent to play har­mon­ica and gui­tar with adult mu­si­cians.

He said he ran away from his home at 14 and told the Hamil­ton Jour­nal News in 2009 that he had gone back there only once. He ex­plained he had bad mem­o­ries of grow­ing up poor.

He wound up in Day­ton, where he joined in the 1960s with core mem­bers of a group called the Ohio Un­touch­ables to form the Ohio Play­ers.

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,” Mr. Bon­ner told the Day­ton Daily News in 2003. He said he ini­tially played with his back to the au­di­ence be­cause he didn’t want to get dis­tracted.

The band had a string of top 40 hits in the mid-1970s and con­tin­ued to per­form for years af­ter that. Mr. Bon­ner had re­mained ac­tive in re­cent years with a spinoff band called Su­gar­foot’s Ohio Play­ers.

Mar­shall Jones, the bass player and a found­ing mem­ber of the Ohio Play­ers, said he, Mr. Bon­ner and other band mem­bers were de­lighted and flat­tered when “Love Roller­coaster” gained new fans through a 1990s cover by the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers.


Leroy “Su­gar­foot” Bon­ner per­formed at an At­lanta mu­sic fes­ti­val in 2002. The Ohio Play­ers had a string of top 40 hits in the mid-1970s.

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