He’s still our Boogie Man: KC and the Sunshine Band head to Northern Quest
At the height of the disco era, KC and the Sunshine Band were the biggest hit machines outside of the Bee Gees.
From 1975 to 1979, bandleader and songwriter Harry Casey and engineer Richard Finch cranked out one danceable single after another – “Get Down Tonight,” “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty,” “I’m Your Boogie Man,” “Keep It Comin’ Love.” The song “Boogie Shoes” was even included alongside the brothers Gibb on the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack, the defining album of the genre.
Despite its radio presence, the Sunshine Band wasn’t much of a touring entity at the height of its popularity, and Casey ended the band once the disco craze faded.
“I retired in 1984 and wasn’t going to come near music ever again,” Casey said during a recent phone interview. “It was such a hassle at the time. I didn’t realize I could really enjoy it. Of course, if you’re all drugged out, it’s hard to enjoy anything. Once I got that cleaned up, it was like a rebirth. I feel like I’m 23 again. It’s like I picked up from where I left off in time, but I’m a lot older.”
Since returning to the stage in 1993, Casey and his 15-member band are now on the road nearly every weekend, and their high energy show hits Northern Quest on Sunday.
“Some of it’s a little freestyle, some of it’s choreographed,” Casey said of his touring concert. “It’s all the hits. I try to keep everything in the show kind of familiar. … We cover the ’60s, the ’70s and the ’80s, and we do our latest single. But it’s all about having a good time.”
That’s right: KC and the Sunshine Band are still producing new work, having released three studio albums since the early ’90s. The group’s most recent song, “We Belong Together,” more closely resembles thumping EDM than exuberant, horn-flecked disco.
It’s a notable stylistic change, although Casey asserts that disco has never really gone away, despite the genre losing its cool factor when new wave and punk started dominating the music scene.
“A certain type of disco – and the word ‘disco’ – fell out of favor, but you couldn’t be more disco than the ’80s were,” Casey said. “Clubs are as big as ever. DJs are as big as recording artists these days. Dance music, per se, has never gone. … As Americans, we have to categorize everything, but every time they rename music, it’s like, ‘Really? It’s all the same!’ ”
There have been numerous lineup changes in the Sunshine Band’s history: After all, the band was merely a conduit for Casey’s music, with a rotation of session musicians and vocalists filling the necessary roles. Because he’s typically working with workingman performers, Casey says the musical chemistry between band members tends to be top notch.
“The key to everything is listening to each other on the stage and trying to blend in with everybody,” he said. “When you get up there and try to be an individual, you’ve got 15 individuals on stage. When everybody’s locked in and listening to each other, it’s a oneness. It’s a great feeling.”
Casey continues to lean further into the sounds of contemporary music: He recently wrote a song with country duo Big and Rich and plans to collaborate with the rapper Pitbull, and he’s in the process of putting together a new album that continues to explore his electronica influences. But Casey says he’ll always embrace the songs that made him famous and that still get audiences dancing.
“Now I’m having more fun than ever,” he said. “As long as Tony Bennett and the Rolling Stones can stay alive, so can KC and the Sunshine Band.”