By Stacy M. Brown,
For over six decades, the Ohio Players, first introduced as the Ohio Untouchables, have been a powerhouse in the world of music, dazzling fans with iconic hits like “Love Rollercoaster,” “Fire,” and “Funky Worm” while performing to sold-out audiences across the nation. After years of dedicated contributions to the music industry, the band’s drummer and leader, James “Diamond” Williams, is openly questioning why the Ohio Players have yet to secure their spot in the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Williams, a musical legend in his own right, shared his thoughts during a 30-minute interview on the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s morning show, “Let It Be Known.” “Initially, when I thought about it, I said we are not Rock and Roll, but then after they put the Beastie Boys and everybody else in that rascal,” Williams quipped. “I said, ‘What is the problem? It’s right here in Cleveland, Ohio.’”
Despite the ongoing Rock Hall snub, Williams emphasized that he didn’t want to become embittered. “I would like to think I don’t want to turn into Ernest T. Bass, who used to throw rocks through windows,” he said, citing the character from the Andy Griffith Show. “I don’t want to look at it as something that has upset me because this band has been so well blessed with everything we’ve accomplished and things that are going on right now on the road. But I would like to be a part of that establishment, don’t get me wrong.”
The Ohio Players, now led by Williams, 73, continue to tour and captivate audiences with their remarkable sound. While some original band members like Sugarfoot, Rock Jones, Pee Wee, and Satch have died, several members from the Mercury Records lineup, including Billy Beck, Chet Willis, and Robert Kuumba, remain active with the group, performing with a new ten-piece band. Their performances have continued to receive critical acclaim, leading many to believe that it’s time the Ohio Players receive the recognition they deserve as one of the greatest American bands ever.
The band’s journey began in Dayton, Ohio, in 1959, initially as The Ohio Untouchables. Their breakthrough came with the chart-topping hit “Funky Worm,” which reached number one on the Billboard R&B Charts and became pop Top 15 in May 1973. Their early albums “Pain” and “Pleasure” (both 1972) and “Ecstasy” (1973) were released under Westbound Records. In 1974, the Ohio Players signed with Mercury Records and achieved three consecutive platinum albums with “Skin Tight,” “Fire,” and “Honey” through 1977. They also scored two number-one singles on the Billboard pop charts with “Fire” and “Love Rollercoaster” and five number-one R&B singles.
According to Williams, a key factor behind the Ohio Players’ enduring success is their dedication to authentic music. “We love playing music. We love playing instruments,” he insisted, contrasting his band’s approach with contemporary trends of relying heavily on production and backing tracks. “More often today, the bands are playing stems and tracks. If those stems were to go off, it would be something horrible. We’ve always dedicated ourselves as the Ohio Players to be players, and we can’t give that up.”
The Ohio Players’ music remains the soundtrack of the lives of so many, and the mark it has left on popular culture is undeniable. Their songs have been featured in commercials, television shows, and as samples in the work of numerous artists, including Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Ice-T, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Jay-Z, Outkast, Notorious BIG, 2Pac, Mary J Blige, and many others. Artists like the Red Hot Chili Peppers have also covered their songs.
As for artists sampling their music, Williams quipped, “I feel good about that, but I feel better when I go cash that check.” He recounted the financial success the band enjoyed when their music was used in Rav-4 car commercials, adding with a laugh, “I don’t even like Rav-4, but I made so much money I thought about buying a Rav-4.”
In reflecting on the band’s longevity, Williams emphasized the importance of love, dedication, and a genuine passion for music. “The love and desire and dedication that we all have individually is what makes it last,” he said. “We have ten people on stage, and with our stage manager and production manager and others, it’s 13 on stage, and we take our music to heart. We don’t take anything for granted because we know that every day is a blessing and want to do it right. We want to continue letting people know it’s not about the machines; it’s about the music.”
This article was originally published by Amsterdam News.