Get Down, and Go See KC and The Sunshine Band

By Mike Morsch
   Harry Wayne Casey isn’t often at a loss for words. He has, for decades, urged people to get up out of their chairs and shake their booties.
   But last Fourth of July was different for KC and The Sunshine Band. They were celebrating the country’s birthday right in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.
   ”We have in the past performed on the Fourth of July in many great cities throughout the U.S.,” said Mr. Casey, a.k.a. KC. “But to be in the capital that night – looking at the capitol building from the stage was… I don’t even know how to say it… was one of those pinch-me, emotional wow moments.”
   A moment not lost at all on Mr. Casey and his band mates.
   ”As we started performing, the magnitude of it all started kicking in, what we were doing and what was going on. Looking out into that sea of people and seeing them all waving the flags and enjoying the music was just… you felt the country. You felt everyone coming together on that day. I think that vibe was being felt all over the country.”
   KC and The Sunshine Band first danced onto the music scene more than 40 years ago with a slew of hits that helped define the dance music — then called disco — of the mid-1970s.
   The band produced several No. 1 singles between 1975 and 1977, including “Get Down Tonight,” “That’s the Way (I Like It),” “Shake Your Booty,” “I’m Your Boogie Man” and “Keep It Comin’ Love.”
   And KC and The Sunshine Band will play those hits and many more for one show at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City.
   Dance music is bigger than it’s ever been, according to Mr. Casey. And finally, after many years, KC and The Sunshine Band are getting the credit that Mr. Casey believes they deserve.
   ”I’ve always felt like the Rodney Dangerfield of music, where I got no respect,” said Mr. Casey. “I always felt like my band got pushed to side for some reason. We were the main creators and the main engine behind this dance revolution. We were actually the driving force behind what changed music in the 1970s. But we’ve never gotten that kind of credit for whatever reason.”
   Still, people know and love the songs. Like “Shake Your Booty,” which is a song about, well… shaking one’s booty.
   ”I wrote that song because when we would tour, I’d see people wanting to have a good time, but just not being themselves,” said Mr. Casey. “People were fighting having a good time, fighting those feelings to just get out there and shake your butt, shake your bootie. Have a good time, enjoy life because it goes by quickly. Just enjoy it. That’s what that song was about.”
   But it’s not just the classic dance music one gets at a KC and The Sunshine Band concert. For the first time in more than a decade, the group has recorded a new album, released in March, called Feeling You! The 60s, a tribute to the era that shaped Mr. Casey into the artist he became in the 1970s.
   The new release is part one of the two-part Feeling You project, and features covers of songs by sixties legends Bob Dylan, Ben E. King, The Kinks, The Righteous Brothers, Jackie DeShannon, Aaron Neville and many more. The second part of the project will feature new material by the band.
   ”In my show, I keep the songs familiar to the audience. So I started doing these covers from the 1960s that I thought were more familiar to the audience, more than maybe doing one of my own favorite deep album cuts,” Mr. Casey says. “I put these songs that I do in the show on the original album, and the more I kept listening to the album, the more I thought I ought to make it a two-CD release and do half of 1960s song covers and the other half of original material.”
   Mr. Casey says it’s more difficult for established classic rock artists to get their new music noticed on the radio these days because radio has changed over the decades.
   ”Radio isn’t what radio used to be. It’s become more corporate. There are no more mom and pop stations where DJs had the freedom to play what they thought the audience wanted to hear,” said Mr. Casey. “It’s now done in one spot in the nation and every radio station has to play what they’re dictated to play. That’s had a huge effect on what people get to hear and what they don’t get to hear.”
   One thing that hasn’t changed is that dance music fans have been hearing KC and The Sunshine Band’s classic tunes for a long time now.
   The music has been used in major advertising campaigns and been featured in more than 200 commercials and movies, including Saturday Night Fever, Forrest Gump, Boogie Nights, Rush Hour, Carlito’s Way and Austin Powers in Goldmember. KC’s songs were also featured during the opening ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.
   Mr. Casey won a songwriting Grammy in 1976 for Best R&B song for “Where is The Love” and also received Grammys for Album of the Year and Producer of the Year in 1978 for his work on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
   Today, KC and The Sunshine Band is having as much fun as they did when it all started for them in the 1970s.
   ”I’m having a blast and there’s more to come. I’ll stop doing it when I can’t do it anymore,” said Mr Casey.
For tickets and information about shows at the Tropicana, go to www.tropicana.net. For more information on KC and The Sunshine Band, go to www.heykcsb.com.