KC and the Sunshine Band keep the love coming

It’s forty-four years since Harry Wayne Casey of KC and the Sunshine Band started making music and the band which delivered more disco-era hits than anyone else shows no sign of slowing down.

Their debut single Blow Your Whistle came out in September 1973, and was soon followed by Play Your Funky Horn. Both singles were well received and the band began working on their debut album.

Casey’s first global chart topper however came, not from his band but via a song he wrote for singer George McRae. Rock Your Baby topped the charts around the world, and has enjoyed radio airplay ever since it first came out.

The song sold more than 11 million copies, making it one of the highest selling singles of all time. ABBA songwriters Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson have acknowledged that the early disco hit was an inspiration for their song Dancing Queen.

KC and the Sunshine Band didn’t have to wait long for their own chart topping hits to arrive, in 1974 Get Down Tonight was a massive hit with its call to “do a little dance” and “make a little love.”

Soon the band was enjoying a string of hits with That’s The Way (I Like It), (Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty, Boogie ShoesI’m Your Boogieman, Keep It Comin’ Love, Please Don’t Go and Give It Up. They dominated the charts for over a decade.

Speaking to OUTinPerth from his home in Miami, Casey said while he’d certainly had a string of hits, he didn’t know if there was a trick to writing a hit tune.

“I don’t know, I was writing about how I felt about love and stuff like that, and I was doing high energy, because I thought music had gotten really dark at that time. So I think it was just a combination of the energy of the music and the fact that I was writing about something that everybody shares, and that’s love. It just all clicked.”

While most of the band’s big hits were uplifting numbers that filled dance floors in 1979 the band went to the top of the Australian charts with Please Don’t Go one of the most heartbreaking songs ever. Casey said there was no particular breakup that inspired the tune, rather a combination of many different experiences.

“There wasn’t a particular story behind it, other than I’d been through so many of those types of those situations myself. At that time I just felt like I wanted to slow it down a little bit and go in a different direction. The disco boom was still happening, and even though I was one of the godfathers of it, one of the creators, I just wanted to take it in a different direction.

“I just sat down at a piano and started playing this ballad and writing about breaking up.” Casey shared.

In the late 1980’s KC and the Sunshine Band stopped performing, and disillusioned with the music business, Casey retired.

For over a decade he stayed largely out of the music business, but an appearance on a TV show reminded him of the things he loved about performing, and since then he’s been back on the road taking on a huge touring schedule around the world.

“I love what I do!”, the musician says enthusiastically, “This is what I was born to do, I just have so much fun doing it, and it’s my one connection with the fans and the public. I make the record and I go on the radio, and people buy them, they all have a connection with me because of interviews and things in magazines, but I don’t really have a connection with them until I go on stage.

“It’s my one moment in time when I’m probably happiest in life, and the I love being out there sharing the music with fans of the group, I just enjoy that moment in time.” Casey said.

“The second time around has been a lot different, I don’t have all the pressure of having to make another hit record. That’s why I got out of it, and I never wanted to have anything to do it again in my life.

“Then I did a TV show here in the US and I realised I stopped doing something I loved, so I started testing the waters again.”

Soon the band were doing the occasional gig, and in no time Casey realised he really did love performing live and now he performs almost every week of the year.

While the bands big hits have been played constantly on radio for decades, a resurgence of interest in the disco genre has seen younger DJs searching through the bands lesser known songs to find lost gems. One song that many newer DJs have embraced his Come to My Island a trumpet filled beach party tune. “That’s a great song, it’s such a great song.” Casey said.

While disco sounds are back in the charts, Casey thinks it never really went away.

“It never really died, they just started calling it new-wave in the ’80s, but people have never stopped dancing and the clubs have just got bigger and bigger.

“You listen to today’s music, Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake they’re filled with sounds from the ’70s and ’80s mashed together.

Casey said he didn’t have a favourite tune, because they all meant something different to him, but he said he loved performing all of them to an enthusiastic crowd.

The Village People, KC & the Sunshine Band, Sister Sledge and Marcia Hines play A Day on the Green at Kings Park and Botanic Garden Perth on Thursday December 7.  Tickets available from Ticketmaster.

Check out KC and the Sunshine Band’s latest tune.

Graeme Watson

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