Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, 1943-2013

February 2, 2013 • 2:14 pm

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 thoughts on “Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, 1943-2013

    1. 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.

  1. 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.


  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.


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