KC & the Sunshine band still going strong
Listening to KC and the Sunshine Band today, it’s clear why the band’s dance floor-driven sounds were so big in the disco era. But, the group also continued the work done by '70s funk and R&B bands as well. KC himself, real name Harry Casey, does see his group -- which is still going strong -- as “godfathers of dance music,” but he’s not sure he’s an architect of disco.
“It wasn’t until (movie and soundtrack album) ‘Saturday Night Fever’ came out that people started calling it disco, and I was very conflicted with that, as was Donna Summer,” Casey said from an interview in Las Vegas in early August, mentioning the name of another top-selling '70s soul-pop artist. “At some point, we both fought that label for whatever reason. Everybody laid such a negative thing to it, that the music was getting ‘too disco’ or whatever. But now, people associate it with something more positive, and if you listen to the pop music that came after or today, it couldn’t be more disco.”
On the road
These days, KC and his band are still on the road touring, with a stop on Sept. 1 at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa. According to KC’s official website, the current band includes guitarist Jeffrey Reeves, bassist Steve Lashley, drummer David Simmons, keyboardists Chris Cadenhead and Robert E. Lee, and percussionist Fermin Goytisolo.
Casey said that Goytisolo “is the only one who really played on the original records other than me, but there are some people who have worked with me for a long time. They’ve been in it anywhere from three weeks to 37 years.”
The rest of the touring Sunshine Band includes a full horn section: trumpeters John Reid and Cisco Dimas, trombonist Miles Fielder and sax player Felipe LaMoglia. There are also two backup singers, Maria De Crescenzo and Anika Ellis, and two dancers, Kenetha Morris and Janell Burgess.
“They are just an amazing band,” Casey said of his current crew. “Everyone is just top notch.”
Making them shake, shake, shake
Casey’s journey in music started early. Born in the Miami, Fla., area, Casey loved music as a child and started getting serious about his career in it in 1973, right before the dance music boom. As a young man, Casey worked at a record store as well as Tone Distributors, a wholesale record seller which also ran a recording studio called TK. Casey was helping out around the studio hoping for a break, which he got from TK owner Henry Stone.
“Instead of just sitting around doing nothing, if I saw a garbage can overflowing at the studio, I would take care of it,” Casey said. “Or I would answer the phone or do errands for Henry, or whatever, just to let them know I wasn’t just some bum hanging around expecting nothing. And then I officially got the key to the door, which was great because I did everything I could to stay there. I loved being around that place.”
Stone let KC and the Sunshine Band record at the studio and release music on TK Records, and several of their songs did well on the R&B charts. Things started to heat up in 1974, when a song that Casey co-wrote for soul singer George McCrae, “Rock Your Baby,” became a No. 1 smash, while another song of the Sunshine Band’s called “Queen of Clubs” became a hit in the U.K.
It really boiled over in 1975, when the band’s self-titled album hit No. 4 on the charts and spawned two No. 1 hits, “That’s The Way (I Like It)” and “Get Down Tonight.” It was also the first place to find “Boogie Shoes,” a song that eventually made it to that blockbuster “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack.
Three more huge hits were on the “Part 3” album in 1976: “Shake Your Booty,” “I’m Your Boogie Man” and “Keep it Comin’ Love.” The band stayed together for several more years but only had another No. 1 song, “Please Don’t Go” in 1979. As a solo artist, though, Casey hit big two more times: a duet with Teri Desario called “Yes, I’m Ready” made it to No.2 in 1979, while “Give It Up” hit the top 20 in 1983.
Getting the bug again
Casey has kept variants of his Sunshine Band together on and off for decades now, doing worldwide tours and occasionally releasing new singles or albums. In fact, a new album is nearing completion, which Casey said he has been working on for close to three years. It will be distributed soon through an affiliate label of Sony Records.
Casey said that after many years of not writing songs, he “got the bug again” in 2013 after working on a collaboration record called “I Can’t Get You Out of My Mind” with an English producer. “We were going to get together and just knock something out or whatever, and then all of a sudden the title came to me and the words came to me and a song was born,” Casey said.
From this single and others, Casey has built up enough repertoire to release something new.
“I’ve been working on album cuts that are in a completely different direction,” he said. “They’re all danceable, but some of them are more like funk or pop than the other songs I’ve been releasing lately. I have enough songs now to do three albums if I wanted, but we’re now in the final mixes of what will be the final album, which I think will be like a double.”
“I don’t really want to give a time frame on when it will be out. I’m making sure it’s all good, because I haven’t done this in a really long time, and I want everything on it to be the best. But, I’m really excited about it. It’s going to be a lot more deeper than many of the other KC and the Sunshine Band records we’ve put out.”