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KC and His Comeback Band Reshake Their '70s Booty

Pop music: The renewed popularity of a disco golden boy reaches a crescendo with sold-out concerts and remakes of the old hot stuff.

March 25, 1997|JERRY CROWE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Even after recording a string of chart-topping late-'70s hits, KC and the Sunshine Band seemed destined for the pop music scrap heap after disco faded away in the early '80s.

But in an era that spawned such forgettable No. 1 songs as Rick Dees' "Disco Duck (Part 1)," the Silver Convention's "Fly, Robin, Fly" and A Taste of Honey's "Boogie Oogie Oogie," KC and the Sunshine Band stood apart because of its consistency.

And if dinosaur rock bands such as Styx and the Doobie Brothers can continue to thrive in the '90s, surely there's room for a group that produced such fun-filled '70s touchstones as "I'm Your Boogie Man," "That's the Way (I Like It)" and "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty."

That thought undoubtedly crossed the mind of H.W. Casey, better known as KC, who launched a comeback in 1991 and watched his group's popularity soar to unimagined new heights.

It's the hit '70s all over again for KC and the Sunshine Band, which is riding a wave of renewed interest, with its shows selling out and its irresistible songs popping up all over the place in remakes by other artists and in a variety of TV commercials--for everything from cars to burgers to beer.

"It's great," says Casey, whose reconfigured group is working on a new album in Miami and preparing for sold-out shows Friday and Saturday at the House of Blues. "I mean, I'm ready."

What's fueling the comeback?

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"I guess a lot of the public hasn't been happy with some of the stuff on the radio in the '90s," says the 46-year-old Casey, who kicked a 10-year cocaine addiction three years ago and is again enjoying the limelight after spending the last half of the '80s in self-imposed retirement. "They had to go back to the '70s to find something they liked and when they found us, they said, 'That's pretty cool.' "

Formed in the early '70s in Miami, where Casey worked days in the warehouse at T.K. Records and spent nights writing songs with former collaborator Richard Finch, KC and the Sunshine Band was in its heyday two decades ago, when its list of seven Top 5 hits included "Get Down Tonight," "Keep It Comin' Love" and "Please Don't Go."

But soon after disco died in the early '80s, Casey nearly did too. Partially paralyzed in 1982 when the car he was driving was hit head-on by another vehicle less than a mile from his home in Hialeah, Fla., he spent nine months in traction and developed an addiction to painkillers that led to a cocaine addiction.

More interested in partying than performing, he quit the music business in 1986 and didn't start his comeback until five years later, when prompting from friends got him back out on the road.

"They kept telling me, 'Man, why don't you get out there and do it again?' " Casey says. "And then Arsenio Hall would mention a song and say, 'We'd like to see this group reunite.' The more people brought it up, the more I started thinking, 'Maybe I am missing it.' "

The timing of the band's resurfacing couldn't have been better.

"Right about that time," Casey says, "this retro '70s thing started happening, so it was like, 'Wow, I guess you made the right decision there, kid.' "

Hotter than ever, the singer and his band, including original members Fermin Goytisolo on percussion and Beverly Foster on backing vocals, have toured the world during the last six years.

Casey recently signed with Tommy Boy Music, which will release "Yummy," an album of all-new KC and the Sunshine material, before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Casey estimates that the old songs have been featured in more than 50 movies, from "Saturday Night Fever" and "Eyes of Laura Mars" in the '70s to "Forrest Gump" and "The People vs. Larry Flynt" in the '90s.

The band has released at least six greatest-hits packages in the '90s, yielding combined U.S. sales of about 325,000 copies, while White Zombie, the Spin Doctors and Montel Jordan have recorded remakes of the group's hits in recent years.

And General Motors, Burger King, Pillsbury and Budweiser have used the songs in commercials. The popular Budweiser clip features beer-guzzling ants swaying to "Get Down Tonight."

Unlike many artists, Casey has no qualms about his songs being used in advertisements, nor does he understand those who do.

"I don't get it at all," he says. "It's like, 'Get over it.' I made the music to share with the world."

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