June 11, 2001
(The following article appears in the ©NARAS 2001 Program)
As the titular head of KC & The Sunshine band, Harry Wayne Casey has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide and won three GRAMMY Awards (including two on his own and one with his KC & The Sunshine Band) and an American Music Award. He helped produce six #1 pop singles, including “Rock Your Baby” for George McCrae. Along with the Beatles, KC is the only new artist to release four # 1 singles in the course of one year. Disco, and particularly the fusion of dance, soul, and funk that the band helped pioneer, would never have been the same without his musical vision, studio skills, song writing talent, and vibrant live performances.
Casey was born in Hialeah, Florida in 1951. Exposed early to lots of music his mother and aunts were also professional singers-he began working at Tones Distributing, a sister company to Henry Stone’s TK Records/Studio. At the distributors, Casey spent his time processing returns, boxing records for shipment, and best of all, playing keyboards for some recording sessions. He started co-writing songs with artists such as Clarence Reid and Betty Wright.
Perhaps the most significant event of his days working at Tones was when he met Richard Finch, a bassist and drummer with a passion for studio work. Together, the two of them would form KC & The Sunshine Band. Casey suggested the two work together and between his keyboard skills and Richard’s command of the rhythm section theyfound they could create some interesting tracks. They salvaged used tape and began using the studio in the evenings to lay down their music.
On their first album, KC & The Sunshine Band’s, Do It Good, the duo created two U.S. R&B chart hits: “Blow Your Whistle” and “Sound Your Funky Horn.” The unique funk emanating from their late night sessions found an even bigger audience in England, where another track from the album, “Queen of Clubs,” dominated by a powerful, pulsing 4/4 groove, reached the U. K. ‘s Top 10. Then came George McCrae’s groove-filled “Rock Your Baby,” which was recorded in a mere 45 minutes and went on to skyrocket to # 1 on both Pop and R&B charts. Casey and crew were hitting their stride. He and his “Sunshine Band” had it all. They combined a sizzling stage act, honed studio musicianship, hit song writing, and state of the art production skills. They created a unique sound, one just right for the rise of disco, and developed a great stage presence with their large, interracial line-up, carefully orchestrated clothing and funky dance steps. Casey, who was initially inexperienced on stage, had a natural talent that quickly grew, one the New York Times likened to Elvis Presley’s.
The band’s second album-with its eponymous title-was released in 1975 and went triple platinum. Containing the #1 hit singles “Get Down Tonight” and “That’s the Way (I Like It),” the album spent nearly six months in the Top 40, peaking at #2. That year, KC was honored with an American Music Award for Best R&B Artist. Other hits would follow: “I’m Your Boogie Man” and “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” completed a quartet of #1 hits. All hit #1 in the course of a year, a feat not repeated since. The album on which they appeared, Part 3, went triple platinum and also contained the #2 hit single (#1 on the R&B charts) “Keep It Coming Love.” Casey did not give up writing for others. In 1975, he won his first GRAMMY Award (for Best R&B Song) for co-writing Betty Wright’s “Where Is the Love.” In 1978, he was again recognized by the members of the Recording Academy when he received GRAMMYs for “Album of the Year” for his work on the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.
In 1979, KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Please Don’t Go” entered the charts, climbing to #1. It would be their last #1 hit as a group. Shortly thereafter, the band left TK Records, signed to Epic and released a couple of albums that never reached the Top 40 of the album charts. Disco’s audience was eroding. In the interim, Casey became involved in recording and promoting Teri DeSario’s “Ain’t Nothing Gonna Keep Me From You.” Later, the two
recorded a duet, a cover of the classic “Yes, I’m Ready,” which became a #1 hit. KC & The Sunshine Band’s second album for Epic was released in 1982. That same year, Casey was involved in a serious car accident that required months of recuperation. By the end of 1985, he had retired. The retirement wouldn’t last long. In 1991, Casey returned to the stage.
Whether as a musician, singer, songwriter, producer or front man for KC & The Sunshine Band, Harry Wayne Casey created music that spoke to a generation. Casey continues to travel around the globe, selIing out shows on every continent. The music now speaks to an entire new generation through his touring, commercials (Budweiser, Burger King, GM, and others), movies (including Space Jam and Forrest Gump), and reissues (the band’s Best of … ” album went gold in 1999). He remains a crucial part of music’s past and present, bringing joy to fans both old and