Music » Music Features

Get Down Tonight!: KC and the Sunshine Band play Tunica



In the 1970s, one artist who surely seemed to have his finger on the pulse of what type of songs would be hits on top 40 radio was Harry Wayne Casey.

The man who would become known to millions as KC of KC and the Sunshine Band enjoyed some minor success with a pair of early singles, "Blow Your Whistle" in 1973 and "Sound Your Funky Horn" in 1974 on the Miami-based label, TK Records, before making the group's 1975 self-titled debut album.

And when he came up with a song he was calling "Get Down Tonight," Casey knew he had a game-changing tune for the album.

Harry Wayne Casey of ’70s funk-rockers KC and the Sunshine Band
  • Harry Wayne Casey of ’70s funk-rockers KC and the Sunshine Band

"I even remember a story. It came on Billboard at No. 98 one week, and the next week it fell off. I went to the owner of the record company, who was Henry Stone at the time. I said 'Henry, what's happening? I have a smash record,'" Casey recalls in a recent phone interview. "He says, 'Don't worry about it.' And six weeks later it was No. 1."

Between 1975 and 1977, the group notched three more No. 1 hits — "That's the Way (I Like It"), "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty," and "I'm Your Boogie Man" — and a No. 2 single in "Keep It Comin' Love." Another chart-topper, "Please Don't Go," arrived in 1979. Casey says he knew every one of those songs was going to be a hit.

"I always had a feeling when I was writing the song and when I was in the studio, I could kind of feel this really mysterious aura happen during the recording of some of the songs," he says.

The glory days for KC and the Sunshine Band came to an end as punk/new wave became the next hot trend. Casey had one more top 5 hit, "Yes, I'm Ready," a duet with Teri DeSario, in 1980, but the new decade yielded only one more modest hit single with "Give It Up" in 1984. The next year, Casey quit the music business.

"I was sort of done, frustrated with the whole political part of it all, and I just wanted out," Casey says. "I found myself wanting to run away from something that I loved more than anything in the world."

Casey spent the next decade out of the spotlight, but the 1990s brought a renewed interest in the '70s, including disco. Eventually Casey was enticed to get back into the music business.

"For the 10 years that I laid around and partied and did stuff, my friends were always saying 'Why don't you get back out there? Are you listening to the radio? Everybody's emulating you," Casey says. "I just kept laughing it off, [until] I got a call from a friend of mine, 'Did you see Arsenio Hall? He wants to do a reunion of the band on his show.' And I thought, 'Maybe I'll go do that.' So I called him, made all the arrangements, put a group together, and went out and did the TV show and bells started going off in my head. I started realizing, you know what, I miss doing this."

Casey and the current version of KC and the Sunshine Band — 15 musicians, singers, and dancers strong — have been touring ever since.

The live show features the hits of the '70s, of course, plus a smattering of other original songs and covers of hits from the 1960s that KC and the Sunshine Band recorded on their 2015 album, Feeling You! The 60s.

The set list may evolve later in the year, thanks to some new KC and the Sunshine Band music. A new single, "Give Me Some More (Aye Yai Yai)" — co-written with Tony Moran and Nile Rogers (of Chic fame) — has been released, and a double album of original material should arrive later this year.

"It's been a five-year project, and I'm ready to let the baby go," Casey says of the album. "It's some of the best stuff I've ever done, I think."

KC and the Sunshine Band play the Fitz Tunica Casino on Saturday, February 29th, at 8 p.m.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.

Add a comment