August 7, 2014

KC and the Sunshine Band at the Gallo Center on Saturday

KC and the Sunshine Band continue to get crowds on their feet and into their boogie shoes 40 years later.

Seems inconceivable, but KC of KC and the Sunshine Band claims there are a few people who come to his shows and resolutely refuse to heed the siren call to shake shake shake, shake shake shake, shake that booty.

But just a few.

“I would say for the most part crowds are on their feet,” said frontman and founder Harry Wayne “KC” Casey. “Some sit. I don’t know how they do it, I really don’t.”

Casey has been extolling crowds to put on their boogie shoes and shake shake shake it for more than 40 years now. The Florida native spoke with The Bee recently in a phone interview from Miami during a lunch break. Since founding the group in 1973, Casey has given the world some of its most indelible – and danceable – disco hits.

The group melded R&B, funk, and Latin beats to provide a soundtrack for the 1970s that included the No. 1 Billboard hits “Get Down Tonight,” “That’s the Way (I Like It),” “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty,” “I’m Your Boogie Man” and “Please Don’t Go.”

Casey and his band have survived the roller coaster of disco’s rise, death, rebirth and repeat to come out the other end as popular as ever. It’s almost impossible to go to a wedding or large public gathering without one of the Sunshine Band’s hits blaring over the sound system. Casey said the group still plays 70 to 100 shows a year.

“I think disco is still popular,” Casey said. “All the backlash and all the critics pounded it into people’s heads that it was bad and were dismissive. Unfortunately, I think that’s still in some people’s minds and they are confused by what it is. The fact it never really went away or died, the fact it’s more popular now than it has been since the beginning, says a lot about the type of music it is.”

Casey said it was the John Travolta film “Saturday Night Fever” that brought disco to its fever pitch, and enveloped all popular music of the era under its moniker. But he defines his style of music simply as dance music.

“There has always been dance music, it’s the music that played in the discos and clubs,” he said. “If you want to say that, then you could say all this music today that is played in clubs should also be called disco music.”

His music, he said, was a response to the times. Music of the early ’70s had gotten darker, and he wanted to go the opposite direction.

“I thought music needed energy and light. So I set out to make party music,” he said. “It’s all high energy and danceable. And that created a snowball effect across the world.”

While writing his own hits, Casey said he never thought about whether the songs would sustain their popularity this long. He said he wasn’t thinking past 52 weeks on the charts. Still, to this day, his songs continue to be recognized and played.

“Some songs latch on forever, others fall by the wayside. Why that happens – I’m not sure if there’s a defining reason,” he said. “I don’t know how to explain that part of it. For the fans, they hear the song, they are attached to it, and it becomes part of the soundtrack to their lives.”

While it may seem repetitive playing the same music year after year, decade after decade after decade, Casey said the audiences make it feel fresh every single time.

“For us who make the music, until we go out and perform we have no connection to the song at all other than recording. Until we go out there and see what the music does to the audience, that’s when we know,” he said. “To see the joy it brings to the audience and the people, there’s no other experience like it. When you love doing something like all of us as artists love doing something, there is no greater reward than to be up there to spend an evening with the music and the fans. Everyone is just enjoying it and having a good time.”

Probably even the people still in their seats.

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