KC and the Sunshine Band's Harry Wayne Casey: "I Don't Believe in Getting Bored on Stage"
I've never played a board game with Harry Wayne "KC" Casey, but I'd be willing to bet I could beat him at Operation, because the man has a knack for getting things stuck in people's heads.
Chances are his music has infiltrated your own subconscious since he founded KC and the Sunshine Band in 1973. He was only 22-years-old then, working at a record store, but he always knew what he wanted to do. And for 41 years, he's been doing it.
KC, as he politely let me call him in our interview, is still touring today, and this Friday, January 24, he will play at the Seminole Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, FL. And he'll do it because he wants to. It was clear when speaking with KC, that music and entertaining are still as fun to him as they were in 1973, when the word booty didn't exist, and this little band from Hialeah was making music as fresh and innovative as anything around.
New Times: Has being from Florida, and especially Miami, had an affect on your musical style? Aside from the name of your band?
Harry Wayne "KC": You know, I think it did. I mean, Miami always was kind of a little different than the rest of the country as far as music for some reason. I know a lot of times hit records were hits down here but didn't make it very far outside of Miami. I think we just had our own little rhythm going on down here. I'm sure it played a very important part in what became KC and the Sunshine Band.
Do you think if you started somewhere other than Miami, you wouldn't have experienced as much success?
That I don't know. I knew I was going to be in the record business and I just happened to get to the right place and it all kind of happened for me. It's hard to say what would have happened if I left. Luckily I didn't have to leave. I kind of always knew that this was going to happen for me. This is what I wanted to do. I just didn't know if it was going to happen here or if I was going to have to leave to do it.
Well, KC and the Sunshine band experienced a good amount of success overseas before you experienced all the success in the states.
We were having success in the states, but things got bigger in Europe before they did here.
Do you think that was a positive? Getting some experience in Europe before making it big in America?
I don't know. I was making records for people, I wasn't making records for certain countries. I was having some success in America, even though it wasn't on the top 100, it was on the R&B charts, which was pretty good -- to have a record on Billboard's R&B charts. Since what I loved was R&B music, getting the top 15 or top 18 on the Billboard R&B chart was quite an accomplishment for a kid from Miami. So I don't think I looked at it that way, or thought of it that way. Since all the music was being made here, I don't think Europe had any effect on what eventually happened here. Actually, our first big hit in Europe didn't do well here at all.
Why do you think that is?
This happens with all artists. There's British artists that have hits here that can't get them off the ground there. They pick different records to be on the radio over there. It's kind of an interesting situation. I know a lot of times when we're touring overseas I have to go back and look at what records were hits there so I can play the right songs for the shows.
That's something I've noticed about your shows. You give people what they want. You don't shy away from the hits or play some of the more obscure or deeper cuts.
Yeah, I try not to do that. I would actually rather do a cover in my show that's familiar to people than do some obscure cut that the majority of the audience may not totally be aware of.
Why do you think it's so hard for so many artists to stick to the hits? A lot of artists that are touring towards the end of their careers distance themselves from some of their most successful tracks.
I don't know. I always wonder if maybe they can't even perform them anymore. I go to some concerts over and over again and every year they play the same old ones. And they have like 20 times the hits I have, and some of my favorite songs I've never heard them do live. So I don't know what that reasoning is. I would think that if you had all those hits, you'd want to play at least a little piece of all of them. I would.
Do you ever get sick of playing certain songs? Or bored at all?
How can you get bored when the audience is excited? Unless the audience is bored with you. I don't believe in getting bored on stage.
Your songs have really been in every possible medium. But they've also been heavily sampled. Notorious BIG, Beyonce, Trick Daddy. The list really goes on. How does it make you feel to see your music continue to be used and reinvented all these years later?
I think it's very flattering. I think it adds a lot of legitimacy to the music that we created. A lot of critics have tried to put our music down, so to me it just solidifies how great those songs really were, and backs it up with a whole new generation.
What do you think it is about your music that makes it so compatible with hip-hop?
The rhythms I guess. I don't know. They're good time records too. I think they were great songs. Not only the hits, but the more obscure songs on the albums have great rhythms. I mean, dance music is bigger than it's ever been.
It is. And speaking of dance music, you guys kind of started the whole booty movement.
You got the word put in the dictionary, didn't you?
Well we didn't have it put in the dictionary, but it went in the dictionary because of the song.
So -- and I promised myself I'd never use this word but here I go -- are you prepared to take responsibility for the 'twerking' phenomenon?
I don't know if I can take credit for that. How can I take credit for that one?
I think it all stems from the tree that was "Shake, Shake, Shake."
(Laughs) Well it's very possible. I would have to be responsible for that I guess.
A former colleague of yours, Blowfly, is kind of making a bit of a comeback in Miami.
(Laughs) Oh, yeah.
Do you still keep in touch with him?
I hear from Clarence every now and then. He's a good guy -- a good person. You know, he was one of the main people that helped me when no one else really wanted anything to do with me. He let me co-write with him and stuff.
So what are you expecting from the South Florida crowd?
I don't know. I don't have to expect anything. They're all coming to have a great time, and I'm going to have a good time with them. I think we're all going there for the same reason. So that's what's going to happen.
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