DU QUOIN – For Harry Wayne Casey of KC and the Sunshine Band, the skies of life turned pretty dark.
In the mid-1980s, after more than a decade of hit singles and nationwide tours, Casey decided to call it quits. But his “retirement” proved to be less than joyous. He walked away from the business, hoping to leave any and all traces of it in his past.
“You have these dreams as a child, and I’m lucky to say I lived one of the American dreams, but I didn’t realize how political and inhumane it could be, and it made me sick to my stomach.”
On the surface, Casey and his Sunshine bandmates were icons of happiness and uplifting beats, recording hits such as “Get Down Tonight,” “That’s the Way (I Like It)” and “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty.”
But on the inside, the long hours in the studio and on the road, paired with the constant demands, began to take their toll on Casey, and, eventually, he hit the breaking point.
“I wanted to touch and feel life again,” he said. “I don’t know why, but I felt like I’d lost that.”
He sought solace outside music, doing things in his 30s he said most people get out of their systems in their teens. His aggravation and disdain for the industry led him so far as to outright pray to God to take him away from music.
He continued down that road for the better part of a decade before hitting a sharp curve. Appearing on the "Arsenio Hall Show," the host expressed his dream of reuniting the Sunshine Band, and Casey agreed to a special promotional return.
Being back with the band reignited the spark that had set fire to a mainstream disco movement years before. A conversation with James Brown, who said Casey was wasting his gift if he wasn’t performing, only added fuel to the fire.
“I realized I wasn’t doing what I loved to do,” Casey said. “I needed that moment with myself, with my friends, with my life.”
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Casey and the band reunited, but, this time, he wanted to make sure he did it on his own terms. The band still tours, mostly on weekends. This schedule allows Casey and his bandmates to enjoy the combination of life at home and on the stage.
He said it has taken 40 years to understand who he is and what happened through the course of his life. But now he’s back to rocking and rolling – and discoing, too – and having the time of his life.
Southern Illinois fans will see the bright side of Casey’s personality when KC and the Sunshine Band take the stage Saturday, Aug. 30, during the Du Quoin State Fair. The band takes the grandstand stage at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at the grandstand box office, by calling 618-542-1535 or through Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 866-646-8849.
Casey said the show will be a variety show featuring the classic KC and the Sunshine Band hits and covers of other songs from that era.
“I’d rather play covers of popular songs from the '70s than obscure tracks off our albums,” he said, saying the band tries to keep it familiar for the audience.
The show is also a bit of a spectacle, as about 15 people share the stage, all playing their parts in bringing the ensemble together.
The fact they’re still able to play their style of music for audiences across the country stands as a testament to the legacy they’ve created, he said.
“I’m very proud of it,” Casey said. “I feel vindicated in a way. My music, the band, the name was tarnished by critics the entire way, but we made it.”
Casey said disco is a key chapter of rock-and-roll history, and he’s afraid to look back and wonder what would have happened if the “kill disco” movement had been successful. He’s just thankful he’ll never know.