Harry Wayne Casey, the "KC" in KC and the Sunshine Band will be playing the Concert for a Cure on the RiverStage in Jeffersonville Saturday night as part of the inaugural River Crossing Festival. The Louisville Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization is the official non-profit charity organization of the festival and will receive a portion of the proceeds from KC's show.
While to some, his name may be a blast from the past, Casey seems happy about his present. And in his immediate future, he plans on giving fans what they want by playing all of his classic 70s hits at this weekend's show. Thursday, Louisville.com got a chance to talk with him between stops on his latest, or more so, continuous tour.
Louisville.com: First, I'd like to go way back and ask you about the roots of your music. Growing up in Florida, what were your musical influences? Was it Miami, Caribbean, Latin, RnB? I can see all of those, but when you were a kid, what steered you in that direction?
KC: I grew up in the 50s and 60s mostly, and my first experience came in the early 60s with the Motown sound, with James Brown, Joe Cocker, Three Dog Night; I mean I've always loved all kinds of music, mostly RnB, but even if it was rock and it had a funky sound to it like even Sunshine of Your Love by Cream or whatever would catch my eye, and being in Miami I know a lot of times certain records were hits here that weren't necessarily hits everywhere, either. So, there was always a more upbeat feeling about the music being played in Miami than maybe other places.
Louisville.com: During that time in the mid to late 70s, did that label "disco" ever annoy you at all because you were making more of a soulful music?
KC: It still annoys me. (Laughs) Although it's a craze that my music, that our band created, that started the whole craze, at times I try to steer away from it because some people still have a - I don't know what it is about the word - they associate something bad with it, but it's not. It's more popular today than it ever was. I mean even rap artists today - everything on the radio right now - is dance music. It all goes back to us, you know what I mean.
I guess the one thing that happened with me was when we originally started out doing it, our music was really RnB pop and then all of a sudden they renamed it and started calling it "disco" in the 70s, and then after the crap with the guy who decided he would pull a publicity stunt and burn disco records, after that, then they started calling punk music in the 80s. And I kind of like knowing that my music originated from RnB and pop, mostly RnB, that I just felt like the actual recognition of the style of music had been taken away from us. It was RnB up until 1978, and all of a sudden it's disco. And I never made a disco record, I made danceable RnB records.
Louisville.com: The Bee Gees certainly also had a career established before anyone considered them disco as well.
KC: I don't think anybody was making disco records - now they call it dance music. Why don't they still call it disco music? I mean it's the same beat. It's the beat that we started in 1973 in all of the music in the 80s and the 90s and now in 2010. It's been very confusing.
Louisville.com: I guess it was a few years after '73, maybe '76-'77, there was a period when you guys had four #1s in a year, which was the first time that happened in fourteen years or so when The Beatles did it, and you had three Grammys and other nominations. That's a huge amount of success within a few years. What was the craziest part of that success? Did you ever have to pinch yourself to make sure it was happening or did it happen so fast that you didn't know any differently?
KC: It seems fast. Everybody's career usually has a big ten year or five year run or whatever. I was so busy working on other artists for the label and ourselves; I was more concerned about what was happening that moment on that record and what deadline I needed to meet then to think about what was really going on with me. For me, it was really actually one of the loneliest periods of my life because I just never felt like I could - all of a sudden I didn't feel like a part of the world anymore. I was totally separated out, and it was kind of lonely for me.
Louisville.com: Was the celebrity thing actually a detriment to a degree?
KC: Well, you know the minute you become celebrity or whatever, you're pulled out of the flock; you know what I mean? And it's sometimes hard to understand that or accept that or understand what's going on, and with me because of the popularity of the band and the music and everything, it was impossible for me to do the normal things that I did like just go to the store and buy something without being mobbed. I'm not complaining about it, but it's a whole trip to the head. You know what I mean?
Louisville.com: I can only imagine. Luckily, I can go to Target and no one notices.
Louisville.com: Give It Up became sort of your comeback hit around 1984, but after that you took a hiatus, dropping out of the spotlight for nearly a decade -
KC: I quit. I absolutely just said I don't want to do this anymore.
Louisville.com: Was that because of what you said a moment ago about all the fame?
KC: Yeah, because of all of it. I just didn't want to be told when to be happy, what to do, where to go, and when to be there and how to dress and how to look; you know enough already. I just wanted to get back to where I started I guess. I just wanted to touch reality. I mean it was my reality but I don't know if I was embracing that reality very well.
Louisville.com: Very interesting. It's not probably something most of us have any experience with.
KC: You know it's like it's still a missing part of my life. I mean I have no idea what it's 30s, I lost whatever those normal years that everybody goes through in their growth; that's the missing part of my life. I have no idea what that would be like or was going to be like.
Louisville.com: It seems like an interesting dichotomy - very fortunate yet unfortunate.
KC: No, I mean I lived the American dream, and I had it. I had it all. I had everything I ever wanted. I loved music, I wanted to be in the music business; it's all I ever thought of, it's all I dreamed about; it's all I knew I was going to do. I think you want all that, but it took me a lot of years to understand and accept what happened to me and figure out what happened to me and be comfortable with what happened with the success and all the greatness and everything that came with it.
Louisville.com: That period that you're talking of was years ago, yet your music is so submersed in pop culture. The other day I saw a Payless commercial using Keep It Comin' Love. Especially during that decade or so when you took a break - or any time - what is the oddest place you ever remember hearing one of your songs?
KC: I've heard it everywhere. I've heard it anywhere I've been in the world. I mean I've heard it everywhere. I don't think any place is odd. You know a lot of different places play music - when you walk in a mall or go in a store and you hear the song, it's cool, it's like wow, I did that.
Louisville.com: So it's still doesn't lose its appeal, and you must be pretty proud of that.
KC: I am very proud of that.
Louisville.com: As a little kid, one of the first 8-track tapes I got was your self-titled album with That's the Way I Like It and Boogie Shoes. So, my thinking here may seem silly, but to me you introduced the word "booty." Years later I've thought that much like Pat Riley trademarking the phrase "three-peat," if KC did that to the word "booty," it would have just added to his windfall.
KC: (Laughs) Well, unfortunately I don't think you can trademark a word although you know because of me, the word did get added to the Webster's dictionary, so it is actually a word with a definition. (Laugh ... writer's note: the definition reads "slang the buttocks")
Louisville.com: It's 2010, and you still tour a whole lot. What sort of audience comes to the show?. Do you see the parents bringing their kids or -
KC: It depends on the venue. A lot of times it's babies to grandmas. My demographics were always pretty diversified, so that really hasn't changes from the beginning.
Louisville.com: That's got to make you feel good that you're still reaching a wide audience.
KC: Yeah, absolutely.
Louisville.com: In the past decade, you've made a couple studio records. Are you able to throw in some of those songs into the live mix, or are you concerned with even the marginal fan - wanting them to hear all the songs they're expecting to hear? Is it ever tough to come up with your set list?
KC: Well, we revamp the show ever so often. It's been a while since I've done this show, but I constantly update the show. I actually took all the more obscure songs that just because I like them or they were medium hits or whatever, I've kind of taken them out of the show and put in other songs that were popular during that time that would be more familiar to everybody than just to a few people.
I know one thing I dislike as a concert-goer going to my favorite artists is when they start doing these obscure hit records that I know I didn't like. I don't know if it's for their own ego or for whatever reason they do them and they have all these other hits that they could have done. So I just keep my show to the major number 1 records, and then I put in medleys and stuff from other people's songs from that period of time.
Right now I have the song Say by John Mayer in the show, and seven-eight months ago it was True Colors by Cyndi Lauper, then I did I Can See Clearly Now. So, like I'm getting ready to change the John Mayer song to something else, but I like to put one whole song of somebody that's a favorite of mine in the show. I just feel like doing something that's familiar to people makes the show interesting to everyone and not just a few.
Louisville.com: After all those years, does it ever get old singing a particular song or are you still able to find the same sort of joy in performing it?
KC: I enjoy all of the songs even though I've done them a million times. Like I said, sometimes we change the intro or the outro or do something in the middle of it, but I try to keep all of the songs exactly pretty much the way they were on the record. I know some artists go out there and feel like they need to change the records; their heads swell up and do this new live version of it, but I try to stay away from that as much as possible.
Louisville.com: So people know what they're getting. Every time I've seen you on TV, you bring a certain energy to the show, I imagine that's still the way it always was.
KC: Right. It's a great show, and I'm looking forward to being there and sharing my music with everyone.
Louisville.com: Well, we're glad you'll be here, and it's for a good cause. I appreciate you taking the time to talk. I wish I still had the 8 track, but I don't have the 8-track player anymore. Great talking to you.
KC: (Laughs) Thank you. Bye.
Tickets for KC and the Sunshine Band's 7:00 P.M. Saturday show are $20.
To get you ready for the concert, check out a live version of That's The Way I Like It.
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