The young Harry Wayne Casey really wanted to play piano, but found he was too “hyper” to sit still for lessons. So, instead, he messed around on the keys and taught himself to play frenetic, high-energy tunes.

Luckily for dancers and disco owners everywhere, Casey turned his passion for booty-shaking music into a 45-year career as the frontman for KC and The Sunshine Band. The Florida-based group helped usher in the disco phenomenon with hits like “Get Down Tonight,” “That’s the Way (I Like It),” “Shake Your Booty” and “Boogie Shoes.” Disco may be dead, but the band’s songs have lived on and can be heard daily on oldies radio stations, in nightclubs and at parties.

On Saturday, KC and The Sunshine Band will put on their boogie shoes and stroll into Aura in Portland for a show. Casey said the group will number about 15 on stage, including a horn section, three keyboardists including himself, singers and dancers.

“I’ve just always loved up-tempo music. Growing up I’d listen to Motown, James Brown, Sam and Dave, people like that,” said Casey, 68. “But I’d also buy records from a lot of other people for that one song they had that was funky.”

KC and The Sunshine Band will be at Aura in Portland on Saturday. Photo by Larry Marano

Casey grew up near Miami and in his early 20s was working at a small recording label, TK Records, as a writer, backup singer and musician. He put together a band with studio musicians there to play Junkanoo, a type of Caribbean party and parade music. That band became KC and The Sunshine Band, and by 1975, the group was landing hits on the radio and pop music charts.

The band’s last No. 1 hit was “Please Don’t Go” in 1979, but the group continued to have hits in the ’80s, including “Give It Up” in 1983. After that song, Casey decided to step away from the hectic life of a musician. But during his hiatus, he went on a “drug binge” and struggled to get his life back in order. In the early 1990s, he decided he needed to focus again on doing what he loves – music – so he put together a new edition of KC and The Sunshine Band and began performing again. Around that time, he went into a drug rehabilitation program, which he credits with helping him reclaim his life.


Critics in the ’70s and ’80s derided the simplistic, silly lyrics of Casey’s songs: “That’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh, I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh.” But Casey says he never meant to be a storyteller. He wanted to write commercially successful songs that people could sing along to easily and dance to as well.

He succeeded. His songs are played at sporting events all over the world, including NASCAR races and NFL football games, as well as political conventions. They also appear in lots of TV shows, films and commercials.

This year “Boogie Shoes” appeared in a commercial for a cholesterol-lowering drug called Repatha. It shows a father at his daughter’s wedding worrying about his risk of heart attack or stroke, until he realizes he can take Reptha, then dances the night away.

“That music is like the soundtrack of our lives,” Casey said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: