KC & Sunshine Band perform at the River Center

Michael Farrar Special to theadvocate.com April 17, 2013

When the Boogie Tour concert comes to the Baton Rouge River Center April 26, KC & The Sunshine Band fans won’t have to wonder if they will know the songs, because band leader Harry Casey promises all of their greatest hits will be on display.

 “I’m doing all of the hits. Everything in the show is familiar to the audience,” Casey said. “I don’t want them to say, ‘What song was that?’ They come to hear the hits, so that’s what they’re going to hear.”

Casey has written party anthems that include “(I’m Your) Boogie Man,” “Shotgun Shuffle,” “Get Down Tonight,” “Shake Your Booty” and “That’s The Way I Like It.”

One of his smash songs, “Boogie Shoes,” is on the “Saturday Night Fever” film soundtrack, sealing it in the 1970s disco era forever.

However, it was the records of the 1960s that taught Casey about writing music.

“I was always fascinated by everything on records. I paid attention to who wrote the song, who produced it, and the albums had lists of the people who played on the songs,” he said.

As a teen, Casey hung out at record stores, but then started spending time at TK Records, a regional Florida music label.

 “TK wasn’t exactly Motown but I was as close to Motown as I could get in Miami,” he said.

While at TK Records, Casey ran errands, drove artists to shows and whatever else they asked him to do.

Eventually, he was invited to co-write songs and perform as an opening act for established TK artists. But Casey knew he had to somehow change the game in order to get a real career going.

“I realized that nobody was going to discover me,” he said. “I knew that I needed to make a record. Luckily, back then you could press a few records, send them to local music stores and get it out to radio stations.”

His chance to make a record came one day when the TK recording studio was empty. Casey formed an early version of KC & The Sunshine Band and recorded “Blow Your Whistle,” which became a Top 20 hit on the R&B chart.

More singles followed and KC & The Sunshine Band had hits throughout the 1970s. But in the ’80s when disco was dying, Casey himself came close to death in 1982 when a car crash temporarily paralyzed him.

“It almost severed the nerves in my back. I was in traction for almost a year. It was scary, but it makes you appreciate what you have,” he said.

After months of physical rehab, he returned to recording and made “Give It Up,” another hit, in 1984.

After recording “Give It Up,” Casey took a decade-long hiatus from the music industry, during which the hits he had created never seemed to go away.

“Our songs have been in over a hundred movies. We’ve been sampled by everybody from Janet Jackson to Jay-Z,” he said.

By the mid-1990s, the ’70s made a triumphant return with night clubs hosting disco parties and other retro-themed events. KC & the Sunshine Band once again returned to the stage.

Even though he now tours the world with KC & The Sunshine Band, Casey said he feels a special bond with Baton Rouge because it played a key role in launching his career.

 “I love playing Baton Rouge. It was one of the very first places that played my music over 40 years ago,” he said.

So, while fans remember his hits, Casey remembers the places that first embraced his music.

See the Boogie Tour with KC & The Sunshine Band, Midnight Star, and J.T. Taylor (of Kool & The Gang) live April 26 at the Baton Rouge River Center. Get tickets at: www.brrivercenter.com.