The Funkiest Disco Group: KC and the Sunshine Band

The Miami dance-funk act that became disco's biggest band

KC and the Sunshine Band
KC and the Sunshine Band.

Who are KC and the Sunshine Band? 

They were a fairly anonymous bunch, a goodtime big band that just happened to specialize in funk and disco. But KC and the Sunshine Band were also the best musicians in Miami, and between their hypnotic Latin-funk take on disco and the ridiculous way leader Harry Wayne Casey (a/k/a KC) had with a hook, they soon found themselves the biggest dance band in the world.

KC and the Sunshine Band's best known songs:

  • "I'm Your Boogie Man"
  • "Get Down Tonight"
  • "Boogie Shoes"
  • "That's the Way (I Like It)"
  • "Please Don't Go"
  • "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty"
  • "Keep It Comin' Love"
  • "Give It Up"
  • "Do You Wanna Go Party"
  • "I Get Lifted"

Where you might have heard them Their biggest hits remain staples of fun dance music at clubs, oldies stations, weddings, you name it. Even when those big hits show up in a TV show, movie, or talent competition -- which is often -- it's always in the context of one person dancing unselfconsciously or a whole party full of people enjoying themselves like crazy.

Formed 1973 (Miami, FL)

Styles Disco, Dance-pop, '70s R&B, Funk

The Classic Sunshine Band lineup:

Harry Wayne "KC" Casey (born January 31, 1951, in Hialeah, FL): lead vocals, keyboards; Richard Finch (born January 25, 1954 in Indianapolis, IN): bass; Jerome Smith (born June 18, 1953 in Miami, FL; died August 4, 2000, in West Palm Beach, FL): guitar; Robert Johnson (born March 21, 1953, Miami, FL; died 1983, Miami, FL): drums; Ken Faulk trumpet; Vinnie Tanno trumpet; Mike Lewis tenor sax; Whit Sidener baritone sax; Fermin Goytisolo percussion

Claims to fame:

  • The most popular disco band of all time
  • Instrumental in getting disco music onto pop radio
  • Brought a heavy funk flavor to what had been a poppy genre
  • Mixed Latin funk and Caribbean "Junkanoo" rhythms into American dance music
  • Helped turn disco into a party music
  • Put Miami on the map as a major center for dance music, a distinction it still enjoys today

    History of KC and the Sunshine Band

    Early years

    The "KC" in the Sunshine Band is Harry Wayne Casey, a Florida native and self-taught musician who worked at a Miami record store as a teenager. There, he became acquainted with Hialeah's TK Record studio/label and soon switched jobs so he could work in the warehouse. Eventually, he befriended TK bassist Richard Finch, and they formed a group around the core of the label's house band, sneaking in at night to record and writing and recording in search of a hit. Patterning themselves after the Bahamanian "junkanoo" sound first heard in hits like Beginning Of The End's "Funky Nassau," they soon expanded to funk.

    Success

    The group made an album and released two singles, but with no success. Then, suddenly, their big break came with a song they'd written and produced for a fellow native, soul singer George McCrae. "Rock Your Baby" would not only become an across-the-board smash in 1974, it would lay down the pattern for the Sunshine Band's future hits. Although disco was still an urban phenomenon, the band's pop songwriting chops and introduction of Latin funk into Philly Soul helped pave the way for the late-70s brand of disco we think of today.

    "Get Down Tonight" was but the first of many smashes for the group.

    Later years

    Between the death of the disco boom in 1980 and the dissolution of the Casey-Finch partnership, the Sunshine Band was dead in the water. Yet KC persevered, scoring a hit duet with Teri DeSario on a cover of the Sixties soul ballad "Yes, I'm Ready" and eventually making the charts in the early Eighties with "(You Said) You'd Gimme Some More" and "Give It Up." The '70s nostalgia boom of the '90s called KC back out onto the road, where he and a reconstituted Sunshine Band remain a popular concert attraction today. However, Cuban percussionist Fermin Goytisolo is the only other band member from the original incarnation.

    More About KC and the Sunshine Band

    Other KC and the Sunshine Band facts and trivia:

    • Other members included Margret Reynolds, Beverly Champion and Jeanette Williams: background vocals
    • As a child, Casey played piano in the Pentecostal church his family frequented
    • Casey specifically wrote repetitive choruses into the group's songs because customers in his record store would often forget the title of the song they'd heard on the radio
    • The group's 1978 single "Boogie Shoes," while not a huge hit at the time, has become well-known thanks to its inclusion on the mammothly successful Saturday Night Fever soundtrack
    • The guitar solos in "Get Down Tonight" are actually sped up to twice their normal speed

    KC and the Sunshine Band Awards and Honors GRAMMY Award (1978), Hollywood Walk of Fame (7080 Hollywood Blvd.)

    Hit KC and the Sunshine Band Songs and Albums

    #1 hits
    Pop "Get Down Tonight" (1975), "That's The Way (I Like It)" (1975), "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty" (1976), "I'm Your Boogie Man" (1977), "Please Don't Go" (1980)

    R&B "Get Down Tonight" (1975), "That's The Way (I Like It)" (1975)  "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty" (1976), "Keep It Comin' Love" (1977)

    Dance "Get Down Tonight" (1975)

    Top 10 hits
    Pop "Keep It Comin' Love" (1977)

    R&B "I Like To Do It" (1977), "I'm Your Boogie Man" (1977), "Do You Wanna Go Party" (1979)

    Dance "Get Down Tonight" (1975), "I Get Lifted" (1975), "Rock Your Baby" (1975),"Shotgun Shuffle"(1975), "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty" (1976)

    #1 albums
    R&B KC and the Sunshine Band (1975)

    Top 10 albums
    Pop KC and the Sunshine Band (1975)

    R&B Part 3 (1976)

    Notable covers Rob Zombie's goth-industrial take on "I'm Your Boogie Man was a hit in 1996, while Shriekback similarly darkened "Get Down Tonight" in 1988 and KWS turned "Please Don't Go" into a rave thumper in 1992

    Movies and TV KC is one of a few dozen different celebs with a bit part acting in the German comedy heist film Longshot (2000); he's also appeared with the band in a 2015 Sun Life Financial TV commercial

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    Your Citation
    Fontenot, Robert. "The Funkiest Disco Group: KC and the Sunshine Band." ThoughtCo, Nov. 30, 2015, thoughtco.com/kc-and-the-sunshine-band-bio-and-discography-2522037. Fontenot, Robert. (2015, November 30). The Funkiest Disco Group: KC and the Sunshine Band. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/kc-and-the-sunshine-band-bio-and-discography-2522037 Fontenot, Robert. "The Funkiest Disco Group: KC and the Sunshine Band." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/kc-and-the-sunshine-band-bio-and-discography-2522037 (accessed November 19, 2017).