Henry Wayne Casey — the titular “KC” who fronts the Sunshine Band — has been at this a long time. Generally regarded as one of the founding fathers of the modern dance club hit, 63-year-old Casey has sold millions of records worldwide and still books nearly 200 shows a year, touring with a revamped version of the Sunshine Band. Though the technology and logistics of touring may have changed over the past 40 years, the feeling remains the same.
“I love doing it,” Casey said during a phone interview. “I’m a lot more relaxed now with it. And I think vocally I even sound better.”
Though Casey shows no signs of stopping anytime soon, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, the disco-era icon gave up performing for a bit during the ’80s, convinced that, while musical tastes had changed, he wouldn’t be allowed to follow suit.
“I had my last hit record (1982’s ‘“All in a Night’s Work’), then kind of retired after (releasing the single) ‘Give it Up,’ ” he said. “I don’t feel like I was allowed to really change (styles) the way I wanted to.”
The albums that bookended “All in a Night’s Work” — 1981’s “Space Cadet” and 1984’s “KC Ten” — were more pop-infused and less beholden to the funk-laden dance hooks of the group’s past successes. Both albums were largely ignored by critics and fans, save for the re-release of “Give it Up” on “KC Ten.” It became evident to Casey that deviation from the status quo wasn’t what people wanted from the Sunshine Band.
“Every time I changed, I was told, ‘That doesn’t sound like KC and the Sunshine band.’ I wasn’t really allowed to grow,” he said.
And so, after the release of “KC Ten,” Casey walked away.
“I just didn’t want to deal with it anymore,” he admitted. “I was burned out. Tired. I just didn’t want to hear anybody else tell me what to do.”
Spoiler alert: The retirement didn’t stick. And when it comes to returning KC and The Sunshine Band to working status, one is forced to utter the following sentence for the first and hopefully only time: A debt of gratitude is owed to Arsenio Hall.
“(Hall) wanted to have us on his TV show,” Casey recalled. “So (in 1991) we put the band back together for that, and I kind of realized that that’s what I always wanted to do. I really missed it. So I started accepting dates and really started having fun again.
“This time I’m back in control of it.”
For Casey, that means keeping the band (consisting of entirely new members) on a schedule of nearly constant touring, playing to sold-out crowds around the globe. And now, Casey’s happy to be putting the finishing touches on his latest project, a 35-track double-album created in collaboration with U.K. electronic dance music-act Bimbo Jones.
“My manager introduced me to Bimbo Jones, and (they) sent me a track over,” Casey explained. “I had the track for almost nine months, then all of a sudden this melody just came flowing out of me. Then (they) sent me more tracks, and the same thing happened.”
The album, entitled “Feeling You,” consists of 18 originals and 17 remixes of classic tracks from the ’60s. It’s a project that has Casey excited for the future of the Sunshine Band and dance music in general.
“It’s bigger than it ever was,” Casey said about the genre. “Connecting with Bimbo Jones, who’s got a finger on the pulse, you can’t beat that now. It’s looking and sounding like a great collaboration.” CV
Chad Taylor is an award-winning news journalist and music writer from Des Moines who would love to take his talents abroad if the rent were not so much more affordable in Des Moines.