Ohio Players Frontman ‘Sugarfoot’ Bonner Remembered as ‘Humble Yet Charismatic’

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“I sit back now, and it was all a brilliant blaze,” he said. “I think ‘Damn, did I do that?’ It was just ‘Zoom!’ That was a starburst. And like all things like that, it fizzles.”

Jones said he, 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.

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 his home some 20 miles north of Cincinnati at age 14, and told the Hamilton JournalNews 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. He said he initially played with his back to the audience, because he didn’t want to get distracted.

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 drum beat.”

(Photo: AP)

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