KC and the Sunshine Band still shaking

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Rebekah Sewell

When KC and the Sunshine Band released iconic dance hit "Get Down Tonight" in 1975, it was an instant success. Despite many changes in mainstream music, the band's hits have remained popular over the years. Video game series Dance Dance Revolution, for example, has used several of KC's songs to get players moving to the beat.

When KC and the Sunshine Band entered the music scene in 1973, they were full of fresh ideas about music and what makes audiences dance. Founder and vocalist Harry Wayne Casey (KC) was inspired by Caribbean Junkanoo music and applied those rhythms to the band's funky disco sound.  

During the ‘70s, the band released several famous hits including, "That's the Way (I Like it)," "I'm Your Boogie Man," "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty" and "Keep it Comin' Love." Their single "Boogie Shoes" was featured on the hit musical film Saturday Night Fever, starring John Travolta.

The 80s, though, marked a change in popular music taste, and Casey temporarily retired in 1985. Just a few years later, he returned to the music scene and reformed the band. He never fully retired. There may have been lulls between album releases, but the band has been touring and making new music for years.

On Saturday, June 15, KC and the Sunshine Band will perform at the APG Federal Credit Union Arena, the renovated arena at Harford County Community College. All proceeds will be donated to the Harford County Chamber of Commerce.

And on Saturday, July 6, the band will perform with the Village People at Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino in Indio, Calif.

The Beacon interviewed Casey, 62, about the history of his band and his plans for the future.

What was your original inspiration for forming KC and the Sunshine Band?

I was just working on records for myself as an artist. I think the inspiration came from two different sources. I was managing an artist by the name of Timmy Thomas in the ‘70s, and I booked him at a show in Washington, D.C. During his performance, the whole audience was blowing whistles.

A couple weeks before, I had gone to a wedding of a friend of mine, and they had hired a junkanoo band. That's a rhythmic band from the Caribbean who play drums, horns, cowbells... all kinds of percussive instruments. It's a very infectious sound when you're close to them, and they're performing.

I got to thinking of that infectious sound while hearing these kids blow their whistles. On the ride home, I wrote this song called "Blow Your Whistle," which set the tone for what all the music would be.

What made you decide to reform the band in the ‘90s?

Well, I realized I had been doing what always made me happy, and I had let it go. I started doing some shows with just me and my singers and a track, and I just really enjoyed it. I decided it was time to reform the band.

What major obstacles did you face on your way to success?

Originally I was told I would never make it. Quite a few times. [because] I was white and sounded black, they said it would never work.

Was it difficult to re-enter the music industry?

No, because I was re-entering it on a different level, a performance level. There were already requests for us to play. That part was no problem.

Can we expect any original hits at the shows on your tour?

Yes! I like to keep the show very familiar to the audience, so I will be playing plenty of the original hits. I am working on two albums right now. I won't be playing my new material, but I'm working on a cover album of ‘60s classics, and I will definitely play some of those.

I have to ask. Which of your songs is your favorite?

I have to say, I like all of them. If I really had to chose, I guess "Get Down Tonight." It was my first big hit single.

You've mentioned you are working on two new albums. What musical direction is it going in?

It's dance stuff. It’s funky. Very contemporary. I've hooked up with some DJs from the United Kingdom who've worked with Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. They sent me some tracks, and I wrote some words and melodies for them.

There are about seven of those tracks on my upcoming album. I've also done some with my band members, and there are some I have written. It's a very contemporary sounding record.

KC and the Sunshine Band's June 15 concert will take place at Harford Community College in the APG Federal Credit Union Arena, 401 Thomas Run Rd., Bel Air, Md. Show begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost between $55-75. Groups of 10 of more receive a special discount.

To reserve tickets for the Maryland show, call (443) 412-2211. For group sales or to request accessible seating, contact the Ticket Office at (443) 412-2211 or Ticketing@harford.edu.

The California show will take place at Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino, 84-245 Indio Springs Dr, Indio, Cal. Buy tickets for the show at http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?organ_val=1450 or call 1-800-827-2946.

For more information, visit http://bit.ly/KCandTheSunShineBand.