Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner (pictured), who was the frontman for the R&B funkmeisters of the 70’s, the Ohio Players, passed away Saturday from undisclosed causes, reports the Rolling Stone. He was 69-years-old.
The oldest of 14 children, Bonner ran away as a young teen from his hometown of Hamilton, Ohio to seek fame and fortune. As a way to survive, the young musician played the harmonica for change on street corners. Bonner managed to team up with former members of a group called The Ohio Untouchables to launch the R&B funk band, the Ohio Players in 1964.
As a founding member of the chart-topping group, Bonner was a familiar face, always front and center amongst the band members. The Ohio Players with their flamboyant costumes, brow-raising album cover art and heavy brass section had seven Top 40 hits, “Skin Tight,” “Love Rollercoaster” and “Fire,” which are classics that still manage to move a crowd.
The group’s funky R&B sound helped to define an era of music that included the likes of Parliament Funkadelic and Kool and the Gang. Bonner’s commanding, yet soulfully soothing lead vocals — on full display in the group’s hit “Heaven Must Be Like This” and unrivaled verve as he performed — made the Ohio Players a historical musical mainstay.
Bonner continued to tour and perform right up until present day in an offshoot group of the Ohio Players 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.”