The Ohio Players - Pain (Top Hit 28047)
The Ohio Untouchables were formed by legendary guitarist Robert Ward in Dayton in 1959. They made the move to Detroit in 1962 and signed with Robert West's seminal LuPine label, where they would make history by backing up Wilson Pickett and The Falcons on what many consider to be the first true 'soul' record, I Found a Love, the following year. The Untouchables own 45s for the label just crank, and are right there with West's other pioneering releases by Sax Kari, The Primettes (later known as The Supremes), Betty Lavett, Benny McCain, and Falcons Mack Rice and Eddie Floyd.
When Ward left the group in 1964, he was replaced by Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner, and The Untouchables would become The Players. Realizing there was no room for them at Motown, they decided to try their luck in New York City. Kind of like they had been doing at LuPine, they became the 'house band' for the Compass label. There they would team up with renowned producer Johnny Brantley, whose groundbreaking work with people like Hermon Hitson and Lee Moses is finally finding a wider audience. After their Compass 45s were collected together for an LP release on Trip, they were picked up by Capitol who would issue the album Observations In Time in 1968. When nothing much came of that, they headed home to Ohio.
At this point, I'll let Sir Lattimore pick up the story...
"In 1970, after Sound Stage 7 and all of that, I was playing a show up in Akron, Ohio. This guy came up to me and introduced himself, told me he was a producer, and that he owned his own label called Rubbertown Records. Well I had never heard of it, but when he told me he had just hooked up with The Ohio Players, I started to listen. I knew those boys could play! His name was Herb James, and he and I got to be good friends. One thing led to another, and my wife and I came to Akron after awhile to stay with him and his family...
"Herb rehearsed the Players in his basement, and these guys really had it going on, man. I told them they should be recording in Nashville, that that was the center of the recording industry in those days, not Ohio! I had gotten to know Scotty Moore through John R when we cut at his Music City Studio on Music Row, so I gave him a call, and we set up a session. I'll tell you, that was quite a scene, with all the Players driving down in these fine Cadillacs, and just kind of taking over the place. Herb was happy with the results, and gave Scotty a check for $3000 to cover the session. Only thing is, he should have called his label 'Rubber Check Records', cause the thing bounced, and Scotty took over possession of the master tapes... and that's how Herb James lost The Ohio Players!"
Now, when Lattimore first told me this story three years ago, it sounded a little far-fetched. I mean, The Ohio Players cutting da Fonk with Scotty Moore in Nashville? I decided to kind of leave it on the back burner, so to speak, and had pretty much forgotten about it until I got this email in July of 2009 from a musician named Saxy Ric who lived right here on Long Island:
Now how about that? Lattimore's story was right on the money! The first thing I did, of course, was go out and find us a Top Hit 45 which (in addition to having that way cool label) was a 45 which would signal the emergence of The Players as the seventies funk phenomenon they would become. I asked Ric about Nashville, and the rest of Sir Lattimore's tale:
However it happened, The Ohio Players contract was indeed sold to Detroit's Westbound label, who would release Pain as a single and an LP in December of 1971, both of which would cruise into the R&B top forty early the following year. By 1973, they were just huge, taking Funky Worm all the way to #1, which would get them signed by Mercury, where they charted 18 times over the next five years, including four more number one hits... not bad for a band that was rehearsing in a basement in Akron when Sir Lattimore ran into them!
Thank You, Saxy Ric for everything!