When looking at the great soul music geographies of the past quarter century, perhaps the most criminally overlooked is Ohio, the breeding ground for a generation of hot funk acts that came into their own in the 70s and early 80s, including the Ohio Players, Heatwave, Zapp, Lakeside, Midnight Star and Dayton. One of the premiere Ohio groups of this era was Slave. Formed in Dayton in 1975, Slave originally consisted of bass guitarist Mark Adams, trumpter Steve Washington, drummer Tim Dozier, guitarist Mark Hicks, sax players Orion Wilhoite and Tom Lockett, trombone player Floyd Miller, keyboardist Carter Bradley and vocalist Danny Webster.
The group signed with Cotillion Records for their self-titled debut album and immediately scored with the blazing funk track, "Slide," which hit #1 on the Soul charts and earned Slave a Grammy nomination for best new artist. However, the group's next two albums failed to land big hits, and Slave risked the "one hit wonder" label. Singers Steve Arrington and Starleanna Young joined the group, and Slave's 4th album, Just a Touch of Love, stormed into the top 10 on the power of the title cut. They continued their re-emergence in 1981 with the hit "Watching You" and the accompanying album, Stone Jam.
Arrington left the group for a moderately successful solo career in 1982 (highlighted by the great hit "Dancing in the Key of Life"), and the next few years saw a shakeup in Slave's lineup. Washington, Lockett and Young left to form the group Aurra, and the remaining group members continued to record with lesser success through the rest of the 80s, landing minor hits with "Shake it Up" and "Ooooh." Slave left Cotillion for Ichiban Records in 1986 and recorded five albums on that label through the mid-90s before going silent.
A revamped version of Slave began touring again in multi-artist funk group shows after the turn of the century. In August 2006, the Slave compilation Definitive Groove was released. In March of 2011, bassist Mark Adams died, leaving a strong legacy of great work.
by Chris Rizik