Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, 1943-2013

by Greg Mayer

Funk is one of the many distinctive (mostly African-) American musical styles: scratchy guitar, horns, bass and drums providing plenty of bottom to put one nation under a groove. Pioneered by greats like James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone, and brought to its apotheosis by the Parliament Funkadelic collective (whose name I like to think of as a neo-Normanism) featuring such masters as George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and Diaperman, one of its most prominent and popular exponents in the 1970s was the Ohio Players. Fronted by Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, resplendent in his Afro turned Veronica Lake-style over his left eye, he plays double-necked guitar in this live, extended, version of “Fire” from 1975, which features the dancing, costuming, and showmanship characteristic of funk (part of a broad reaction to the ascetic and pretentious stylings of early ’70s rock). If you were between about 12 and 35 at the time you’ll know this tune (although you may have your own funk faves).

Sugarfoot, who could imbue the word “well” with unprecedented meanings and pronunciations, died last week (Jan. 26, 2013), the cause not announced, at the age of 69. He had still been playing, and Ohio Players’ music has and will live on in covers and widespread sampling.

Say what.

14 Comments

  1. marycanada FCD
    Posted February 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    That was cool! Bring in da funk

  2. Posted February 2, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Hot! I remember this well, like it was yesterday…. had to shake my bootie to this video .. I could not help myself.

  3. Prof.Pedant
    Posted February 2, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    I was younger then than they were, but I look at that video now and think “they were just kids!”.

  4. moleatthecounter
    Posted February 2, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Playin’ ‘on the one’. Get the funk outta my face!

    Great performance.

    • bacopa
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      Yeah, if if wasn’t still before ten in the morning here I would have played along on my bass. Folks might be sleeping in on a Sunday.

      I have one of those new Squier VMJ’s that’s very similar to the Fender Jazz used here.

  5. trombus
    Posted February 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    All I can add is look up “Rooster Poot” by the Ohio Players on youtube.

  6. Cremnomaniac
    Posted February 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Oh Golly, I’m so glad you brought up this genre. I realize this post is about, and dedicated to Leroy Bonner, RIP. However, I must say that any mention of Parliament Funkadelic must include Glen Goins. For that matter, George Clinton owes much of his success to the talent of Glen. Were it not for his early departure, he would, I am certain, have exceeded most of those named above.

    Here decide for yourself. George is first, but its Glen’s talent in this performance that shines. Clinton ain’t got squat in comparison.

  7. wildhog
    Posted February 2, 2013 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Groovy. Thanks for sharing that, as I was not familiar with those “cats”.

  8. Mike Yonts
    Posted February 2, 2013 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    In 1975 there was no Internet, and TV was limited to three or four channels. A lot of that was pretty square, but if you stayed up late enough you were occasionally rewarded with something like this.

    George Clinton may have had a Mother Ship, but all these guys needed to funk was a Love Roller Coaster, and a little Fire.

  9. Posted February 2, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Whoa – that should take some of us back in time. Rest In Peace, Sugarfoot and thanks for the great memories.

  10. Jon Mummaw
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    When you’re in the mood for some Funk, WXPN, The University of Pennsylvania’s popular music public radio station has a program called >a href=“http://xpn.org/xpn-programs/funky-friday“>“Funky Friday” (Friday’s 5-7pm). You can listen online if you don’t live in Philly or Southeastern Pennsylvania, where they have several translators.

  11. matt
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    i celebrate the Junie Morrison years.

  12. lisa
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    RIP

  13. Vaal
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    Dang, Prof. Coyne continues to impress me!
    A funk fan as well!

    I just showed that same clip to my kids a couple weeks ago and they loved it. (I played in a funk cover band for 12 years – played lots of Ohio Brothers, Earth Wind And Fire, Brick, Clinton, you name it).

    Great to see props for Leroy Bonner, yet sad to see his era end.

    Vaal


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