Disco 101: K.C. and T.K.
by Chuck Eddy | July 1, 2013
Born in 1921 and discharged from the Army in 1947 after enlisting toward WWII's end, Henry Stone had been distributing "race music" out of Miami for nearly a quarter-century by the time he founded T.K. Records in 1972. He put out some world-class R&B on the label and its subsidiary imprints right away -- Timmy Thomas' primitive-drum-machine-driven "Why Can't We Live Together," a No. 3 pop hit, led an album that's basically a mini-There's a Riot Goin' On. In 1973, one Harry Casey, toiling part-time in Stone's warehouse, formed the multiracial KC and the Sunshine Junkanoo Band and starting jamming in the recording studio after closing time. Once they dropped the Bahamian parade music from their name, the Sunshine Band wound up scoring five No. 1 pop singles before the '70s ended.
Their sound suggests they were initially conceived as a Sly & the Family Stone-style funk outfit. But KC and the Sunshine Band's obscure first album never charted; their instrumental third peaked at No. 131. Despite Casey's white skin and Native American headdresses, their first four singles got some R&B play -- and, in the appropriate case of "Queen of Clubs," dance-club play -- but they were shut out pop-wise until "Get Down Tonight" in 1975.
Half this chronological playlist comprises both the band's biggest hits and rarely heard early 45s, which helped invent disco -- as did George McCrae's pop-chart-topping 1974 "Rock Your Baby" (actually born as a Sunshine Band track) and his wife Gwen McCrae's sound-alike Top 10 1975 hit "Rockin Chair." The mix is fleshed out with other T.K.-associated hits and a couple non-hits through the early '80s -- including Anita Ward's huge 1979 track "Ring My Bell," late-career comeback bids by Joe Tex and James Brown, and the label's anomalous final single: "Another One Rides the Bus" by Weird Al Yankovic, who was still, at the time, unknown outside Dr. Demento circles.