By Steve Hayes
For all the music dweebs out there who scrutinize plus analyze every note from every band and worship their subscription to “Blender Magazine,” may we have a small moment together? My point is to just take off the golden headphones for a second and realize that there are great bands who never really tried to change the world or our lives with their music. All they wanted us to do was have a good time! When it all comes down to honest reality, that’s all that an aspiring record store employee in Miami wanted to do by creating a sound and an attitude that made us feel his groove.
Harry Wayne “KC” Casey was born in Hialeah, Florida in 1951 and through his record store connections as a teenager eventually networked a band together that molded several influences of music into one. His partner in the project was Richard “TK” Finch who was the bands original bass player whose nickname was “sunshine.” Combining their two nics together, the duo came up with a moniker that reflected not only a sound, but their South Beach roots also brought an image to the style that would eventually combine Latin, funk, and disco into one rhythm and dance laced sound infectiously fused together.
To understand “KC and the Sunshine Band’s” place in the music equation is to completely understand what was going on in the early 70’s. Leading up to the eventual and commercially fueled disco era in the 70’s, America was not a happy place. Interest rates were in the upper teens while inflation was on the fast track and gasoline was in short supply. Needing much sought after escapism, the working masses flocked to dance clubs and bands at night that could at least temporarily erase the pain of the daily gloom. While playing many of the hottest spots in Miami and all across South Florida, “KC and the Sunshine Band” picked up a loyal and fast following. It was not only the infectious and horn laced presentation that stirred the dance floor into a frothy frenzy. It would also be the hot and soulful delivery of a young white lead vocalist who made this ensemble percolate. Combining all of the ingredients together as one, it became the perfect storm of sight, sound, and delivery.
Like most struggling bands, they made a couple of singles with no success. It would be the writing and production brilliance of KC and TK that showcased a fellow native and soul singer named George McCrae that would soon lay down the foundation for their own personal success. The smash hit “Rock Your Baby” in 1974 would pave the way for the band’s first true test on the national stage. In 1975, the song “Get Down Tonight” was released and fast as lightening as shuttle launch from Cape Canaveral, it became the 900 pound gorilla of the radio world overnight. It was at this point that “KC and the Sunshine Band” hit the upper stratosphere where a worldwide orbit would now become their permanent stage of choice. Their follow up hit “That’s The Way” (I Like It) took no time making it to #1 as did the platinum selling and self- titled album “KC and the Sunshine Band.”
As trends of music come and go, the amazing barometer of this band’s success is how they eventually survived it all. Aside from the Bee Gees and perhaps the Village People, there are very few from that era from where they were spawned that still exist today. One needs to remember historically that dance music at the time was not only trendy, but it was also quickly disposable. There are countless groups or artists who had their fifteen minutes of dance floor fame who as suddenly as they arrived, disappeared never to be heard from again. In my opinion, “KC and the Sunshine Band” cleverly persevered by simply never really accumulating a label on what they were all about. While never definitively a disco group, they just kept producing music that kept people on a dance floor with no other explanation needed. Even though the song “Boogie Shoes” was featured in the “Saturday Night Fever” Soundtrack, they never really received the full wrath of the disco backlash like most others artists of the day. It’s amazing that not only radio gave them a clean bill of health at the end, but their popularity today in all public forums such as weddings, reunions, frat parties, and sporting events is as stellar as it gets for getting people together and just having a great time! It’s celebratory music at its absolute best!
On Saturday night, April 21st at 8:00 pm, “KC and the Sunshine Band” will bring their almost 40 years of party magic to the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts and “Wendy’s Old Fashioned Rock n’ Roll House Party 13.” According to Vern Riffe Director Carl Daehler, “This year’s act will be a natural progression of great and historic bands that have all left their mark on pop music and rock n’ roll. Overall, they have sold over 100 million records and have been nominated for nine Grammy Awards winning three. As far as popular music acts go… that’s pretty rare air!”
Tickets for “KC and the Sunshine Band” are on sale now at the McKinley Box office including Kroger’s stores as well as and all Ticketmaster locations.
Over the years since its beginning of the series in the year 2000, “Wendy’s Old Fashioned Rock n’ Roll House Party” has featured many of the all- time greatest acts in conjunction with Hometown Radio Inc. and MIX 99.3. Other classic artists who have appeared include Tommy James and the Shondells, The Temptations, Huey Lewis and the News, Dennis DeYoung from Styx, Wilson Pickett, The Grass Roots, Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees, Peter Noone from Herman’s Hermits, Three Dog Night, Johnny Rivers, The Little River Band, Chubby Checker, Lou Gramm of Foreigner, The Spinners, and many more.
If you are planning to attend, the evening will begin with a pre-party beginning at 5:00 pm live on MIX 99.3 from the Vern Riffe Lobby with free food and Pepsi products with music from Chris Smith. The “after-party “will be poolside at the Holiday Inn Downtown immediately following the show. For more information on “Wendy’s Old Fashioned Rock n’ Roll House Party,” call (740) 351-3600.