Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ohio Players bring funky music, urban myth to heritage festival

It's a kind of scream undoubtedly familiar to any Busch Gardens employee who operates one of the park's roller coasters.

Or is it? Maybe instead of an excited patron, it's the kind of bloodcurdling scream you might hear in a slasher flick. Maybe it's the last gasp of a woman meeting with an untimely ending?

Of course, it's not, but I've used the urban myth behind the scream heard on the Ohio Players' Love Rollercoaster to introduce the song to a new generation. The old school funk group, which brings its venerable act to the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival Saturday, gained a measure of surprising notoriety when a rumor began that a woman was murdered while they recorded the 1975 song.

Yes, right around the 2:30 mark of the song you hear a piercing cry.

And it's a woman being stabbed to death?

"That was promoted by a DJ on the West Coast," said James "Diamond" Williams, original Ohio Players drummer and one of four original members who continue to tour with the band. "Billy Beck, another of the original members, did a Minnie Ripperton shrill. He inhaled to simulate a scream you would hear on a roller coaster.

"You wouldn't believe how many times we were asked that question," Williams added. "But for the longest time, we wouldn't answer that question. The mystery helped sell a lot of records. A lot of records. We thought about screaming in some of our other records."

Williams' lighthearted answer reflects the upbeat attitude that undoubtedly sustains his drive. Asked what keeps him touring, he quipped, "car payments. Car payments and grandchildren."

The real answer, however, lies in the fact that the Ohio Players' music — funk with remnants of jazz, but Williams just calls it "good music" — left an indelible impression on fans in the '70s and '80s.

We keep coming out for such concerts because Love Rollercoaster reminds us of the skating rink, Fire inspires visions of Afro-wearing dancers on Soul Train and, for me, Everybody Up conjures memories of early-morning bus rides to Godby High School.

We've been blessed to create something that reminds people of certain times and instances," Williams said. "People remember hearing the siren in Fire and pulling over in their cars because they thought that meant the law was after them.

"Hearing it again brings back those same memories. And it does the same with us."

Williams promises the thousands who come out to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park Saturday will get a show full of energy, enthusiasm and musicianship. The band boasts of not using computers or samplers to enhance the musical production, and Williams said he spent years taking lessons to hone his craft before becoming a professional.

"We're closer to perfection playing our songs today than we were 40 years ago," Williams said.

And apparently, the urban legend surrounding Love Rollercoaster is no closer to dying, pun intended. Snopes.com features an entry dealing with the alleged murder — and an interesting aside about an album cover model — and the story reportedly found its way into the plot of a 1998 movie called Urban Legends, naturally.

I recognize that Williams' admission and this column may contribute to the song's scream no longer raising eyebrows, but I can make one promise: After today, I will never again admit that it's not true.

That's all I'm saying.

>>If you go

Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival

Friday: Heritage Gala, 6:30 to 11 p.m., A La Carte Event Pavilion

Saturday: 5K walk, 8:30 a.m.; Opening, 9:50 a.m.; Ohio Players, 4:45 p.m. (all at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park)

Sunday: Gospel music, 1 p.m.; World's Largest Electric Slide,

2 p.m.; Pieces of a Dream, 4:45 p.m. (all at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park)

Monday: TOBA Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Breakfast,

6:45 a.m., Hilton Tampa Downtown, 211 Tampa St.

For more information on these and other events, go to

tampablackheritage.org.

Ohio Players bring funky music, urban myth to heritage festival 01/15/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 5:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump says 'we can use peace' during meeting with Pope Francis

    Religion

    VATICAN CITY — President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders with contrasting styles and differing worldviews, met at the Vatican City on Wednesday, setting aside their previous clashes to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe.

    Pope Francis meets with President Donald Trump on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. [Associated Press]
  2. Pinellas construction licensing board looking for ways to fill financial hole

    Local Government

    LARGO — The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board's interim leader told the governing board Tuesday that the troubled agency is looking for ways to climb out of its

  3. Adam Putnam calls for special session on medical marijuana

    Blogs

    Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam wants state lawmakers to come back to Tallahassee in a special session to finish the work on medical marijuana that they started but didn't finish earlier this month.

    Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam is a candidate for governor in 2018.
  4. We Tried That: Working on a food truck for a day

    Cooking

    What we tried: It seems like everyone and their mother wants to open a food truck.

    Carlynn Crosby prepares food at the Empamamas food truck in the Cigar City Brewing parking lot in Tampa this month. For a variety of reasons, food trucking is not for the faint of heart.
  5. Local child welfare non-profits lose funding as Eckerd Kids focuses on keeping children out of foster care

    News

    When it comes to getting children out of foster care, the non-profit group Directions for Living has one of the best records in Florida.

    Eckerd Kids