I am extremely sad to report that Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, the colorful and flamboyant lead singer for the Ohio Players, died yesterday at the age of 70.
UPDATE: In an official family statement released by Scott Hanover the family said, “Yesterday, Leroy ‘Sugarfoot’ Bonner passed away quietly in his hometown of Trotwood-Dayton, OH. While his family, friends, colleagues, and fans mourn his passing they celebrate fondly his memory, music, and legacy.”
The statement continued, “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. He will be missed but not forgotten as his legacy and music lives on. More details and an official historical perspective of his career will soon be forthcoming.
His Facebook page is available to all to post comments, reflections, and testimonials of this wonderful and gifted man: https://www.facebook.com/sugarfootsohioplayers.”
The Ohio Players were originally formed in Dayton, Ohio in 1959, and were known as the Ohio Untouchables. After a brief breakup the band regrouped in 1963 adding Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner on lead guitar and eventually he went on to front the band.
The band’s first big hit single was “Funky Worm”, reaching #1 on the Billboard R&B chart and made the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1973, selling over one million copies.
The band had seven Top 40 hits between 1973 and 1976 including, “Fire,” “Love Rollercoaster” and “Who’d She Coo?”
Recently the master of funk brought the Ohio Players to Thunder Valley Casino Resort (read review). Sugarfoot was helped onstage and appeared frail. However, backstage he was jovial and very friendly to the staff and fans as they lined up to meet the ‘70s icon.
Thunder Valley Casino Resort along with World One Presents, Maita Honda, and local radio station V101.1, brought Naughty by Nature, the Sugar Hill Gang, and Kool Moe Dee to Thunder Valley’s Pano Hall for a hip hopping Halloween Friday night. Emcee for the night was V101′s Big Al.
A number of fans dressed up for what turned out to be an awesome show as Bay Area artists Rory and Reed opened the show with a brief 10 minute set.
The crowd went crazy when Kool Moe Dee took the stage. Moe Dee brought along Special K and L.A. Sunshine as they sang hits like “They Want Money,” “Rise & Shine,” and of course “Wild, Wild, West.”
By the time Sugar Hill Gang took the stage the crowd was in full party mode with most fans gathering around the catwalk and dance floors.
Sugar Hill Gang consisted of original band members Wonder Mike, Master Gee, and Big Bank Hank. Keeping the audience completely engaged with their past hits “Apache,” “Eighth Wonder,” and “Rapper Reprise,” they seemed to just be hitting their stride when they finished their set.
As Naughty by Nature stormed the stage the crowd went wild as they all started bouncing up and down to the beat of the music. Original band members Treach, Vin Rock, and DJ Kay Gee, put on a great performance as they played “Everything’s Gonna be All Right,“ “O.P.P.,” and “Hip Hop Hooray.”
Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players took it old school Saturday night at Thunder Valley Casino Resort and turned Pano Hall into party central, or should I say funk central.
The 69 year old master of funk Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, along with eight of his friends, brought the house down as they played hit after hit from their massive collection of songs from the 70′s and 80′s.
Looking frail and using a cane from time to time, Sugarfoot started out with “Who’d She Coo,” and “Skin Tight.” The mixed crowd, of both young and old, were on their feet for most of the performance.
Joining Sugarfoot onstage was Grammy Award winning and longtime band member Trae Pierce (Musical Director/Bass), Derwin Daniels (Sax), Courtney “Big Luv” Girlie (Drummer), Emmanuel Cook (Keyboards), and Earl Fleming (Keyboards). I know that’s only five, but I didn’t catch all their names ““ so if anyone knows who they were, I would love to hear from you.
This was funk at its finest with a tight three horn section, a phenomenal drummer, keyboards, and of course one of the greatest bass players. The band weaved their way from one song to another, making for some wonderful transitions between songs.
Sugarfoot’s voice was no worse for wear. Granted he doesn’t sound the same as he did in his younger years, but he can still bring it. His signature sound came through as he continued with “Fopp,” “Jive Turkey,” and “Honey.”
The crowd erupted into cheers, and anyone not standing was soon on their feet, when the band started playing “Love Rollercoaster,” leading into a superbly performed bass interlude.
As the band left the stage, you could feel the tension in the room as everyone cheered for Sugarfoot and his team to come back out onstage and play just one more. Of course they came back out and finished with everyone’s all-time favorite “Fire.”
The funk doesn’t stop here!!
Catch George Clinton at Thunder Valley Casino Resort on March 25th.
Who’d She Coo
Sweet Sticky Thing
I Wanna Be Free