KC Keeps It Coming
The King of Disco Hooks Still Boogies in the Sunshine (Band)

By Lee Valentine Smith

In 1976, gas was less than a dollar a gallon and Apple Computers and iPhones didn't exist. Punk hadn't exploded and MTV was still a sketchy concept. But amid the swirl of the Bicentennial Year, pop radip bristled with the insistent beat of disco and KC and the Sunshine Band were peaking on the charts and in the dance clubs.

Led by Harry Wayne Casey, the big, Miami-based band dominated the airwaves and late night shows such as the Midnight Special with emphatic, groove-laden call and response anthems. KC's songs weren't Shakespeare, they were simple dancefloor directives. "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty," "That's the Way (I Like It)," "Keep It Comin' Love," "Get Down Tonight" and "Please Don't Go" still rank among the most played music of the '70s. In the aftermath of the whole "Disco Sucks" movement, new generations of fans embraced the band and many artists have sampled the distinctive hooks.

KC remains a productive performer, with a busy schedule of shows and four new tracks on the charts in the past year. His newest, "Move Your Body" finds the Florida-bred musician in fine form, with a new collection of DJ remixes of the hypnotic track released last month. INsite caught up with KC by phone from Las Vegas, moments after a workout at a local gym.

Your show is a physically demanding workout, but you also go the gym route?

I try. Sometimes I don't look so fit, but I'm here in Las Vegas visiting some friends. You've got to sweat out some of the things you put in your body sometimes. You have to stay on it.

It's a good time for single tracks, and your latest single is a good example.

Yeah and this is the fourth one I've put out in the last year or so. I actually have enough that I could put out three whole albums. Or CDs. Or digital albums. I don't even know what to call 'em anymore! "Move Your Body" is just a fun little song and it was a lot of fun to do.

The luxury of releasing tracks as you see fit must be a nice perk.

Lately we've just been putting stuff out on the dance market for the last year or so and it's my fourth Top 40 Billboard charting dance record, so that's exciting. And I'm glad that there's a lot more to come; I have a lot of good stuff in the pipeline. It's been an almost three-year project total and now that it's all coming out, it's very exciting to me. But I'm taking my time because I want to make sure it's the best when it all comes out.

Releasing singles is nothing new to you, thought. From the early days at TK Records in Miami, you'd issue singles without the pressure of having to fill an entire album.

Yeah, back then you could release a single and test it in some markets. If it was a hit, you'd add more markets and it would grow from there. We don't have that luxury anymore because of the way radio is and stuff like that. So now I've been focusing on the dance market and just putting them out a little at a time as I'm getting the main project made.

You were unique in that you had a little more control of the releases that some other artists of the genre.

I always had the freedom to do that because it was an independent label so I could call all the shots.

That was a great position to be in, and definitely rare for a major act.

It was, yeah. And back then, the independents and the majors and even radio took a lot more chances and gave people more opportunities to have a solid hit. Now radio is so corporate that one guy in New York or somewhere controls stations all over the country. If they don't like it or if it's not making noise for them, they just won't play it. And there's no [chain retail] stores anymore, so it's a lot more difficult. Even in the age of technology, it's sometimes more difficult now. But you know you can't stop a hit, so we've just gotta get that one. And now there's like seven DJs who have new remixes of the new song and that's just out.

It must be great to have the freedom to offer more than one version of a song. In the old days, there was the single and the album version and if you were lucky, a live version.

Yeah, nowdays almost every club has a different sort of genre so you have to include a little bit of everything so everyone's a little happy with it. But it's a fine line.

Your music, especially some of the hooks from the biggest hits been heavily sampled over the years. How does it feel to hear one of your finely crafted hooks anchoring the middle of a brand new song?

Well, when we get permission it feels great. When they don't, it doesn't feel so good. Really it's the highest form of flattery, if ya ask me. We have been sampled a lot which gives some credence to the music. The critics back then were a little tough on us. I kinda felt like the Rodney Dangerfield of music because we didn't get a lot of respect from those guys. But it's rewarding in every way to know that you've created some grooves that a new generation loves. Sometimes they love it so much they want it to be a part of their music.

It's a good position to be in, especially after the conquering the whole anti-disco movement. The hooks have endured.

(Laughs) Yeah. Well I'm the hook master!

And you bring all those hooks into the live show. How has the live experience changed over the years?

I've been fortunate to have played with a number of great musicians over the years and now we have [Atlanta-born] Travis Payne, who worked with Michael Jackson and a bunch of other great people. He's responsible for the choreography of the latest show. We'll be changing it up some more this year, too. It's just a good time onstage and I like for everybody to take part in it. The goal is to keep it up and lively and fun.

You'll be playing a set full of songs you've been playing for quite a long time now.

I have but there's not time to ever get bored with them. I'm known for them and the audience reaction makes every show different, new and fresh. It's fun to see their reactions. Some audiences are very quiet and collected and some are just crazy out of their heads. But by the end of the night, even the cool ones go pretty nuts.

During those crazy mid-'70s, what was it like inside the KC hit factory?

Well pretty much I'd work all night, go to sleep, wake up at 3 in the afternoon and I'd start all over again. That was it. It was a like a machine because I was constantly making music. Not only was I writing and producing KC and the Sunshine Band music, but I had other artists on the label that I was responsible for. It definitely kept me kinda busy.

KC and the Sunshine Band play July 15 at The Bowl at Sugar Hill. For details, visit heykcsb.com and thebowlatsugarhill.com.

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