The Boogie Man Is Back

But right now KC wants to show off the patio he's building, brick by brick, by himself, in his back yard. The idea apparently came to him as naturally as musical inspiration, and it has absorbed his attention as completely as a recording session. For days recently KC was unreachable - he didn't answer persistent rings of his doorbell, he didn't return phone messages, he paid no attention to his beeping beeper. He was building a patio, period.

The KC and the Sunshine Band gravy train didn't run dry until the beginning of the Eighties. After 1975's "Get Down Tonight" proved that the disco-dance movement could spawn creative, stimulating, substantial pieces of musical innovation, the hits, as they say, kept on coming. "Get Down" ascended to the number-one position on both the R&B and pop charts - so did "That's the Way (I Like It)" and "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty." No other act had scored three consecutive pop chart leaders since the Beatles in 1964 - and KC's hits also topped the R&B tallies.

In 1977 came "I'm Your Boogie Man," another number-one pop smash, and "Keep It Comin' Love," which fulfilled its title - it reached number-two pop and number-one R&B. Along the way, KC and Richard Finch spread their talents around - both as songwriters and producers - working with Jimmy "Bo" Horne, Leif Garrett, and Fire (the female singers who provided the copulation-style uh-huh responses on "That's the Way"). The duo picked up a Grammy for their writing contributions to Betty Wright's "Where Is the Love?" In 1978 KC added two more Grammys to his collection as a performer and producer on the album of the year, Saturday Night Fever.

The Sunshine Band's sales figures for 1978 were less boggling - "Boogie Shoes" and "It's the Same Old Song" were only moderately successful. But there was one more number-one in 1979 - the desperate ballad "Please Don't Go" - and an R&B smash in "Do You Wanna Go Party." KC worked out a song with singer Teri De Sario, "Yes, I'm Ready," which made it to the second position on the pop list as the Seventies waned.

Now hostages were being held in Iran, a man named Reagan was about to become president, things had turned mighty ugly. On the KC home front, there was some problem between him and his long-time partner Richard Finch. KC winces at the mention of his old buddy's name, and refuses to expound beyond that. Finch could not be reached for comment. Steve Alamo says, "He's hard to get ahold of. I'd like to hear from him, too. I know that he and KC became estranged." Henry Stone would rather not talk about it, mumbling something about a "terrible falling out." Whatever the case, associates spotted Finch at the Swap Shop concert, and one band member says Finch and KC spoke to each other while standing next to a jewelry kiosk.

What no one will dispute is that the car mechanic turned bass player turned producer-arranger-engineer was an equal partner in the wildly inventive records that took his band over the top in the Seventies. "In the beginning I had my doubts about which one was doing it," says Alamo. "I'm not sure to this day which one. I just know that together they did it. I've vacillated - Finch did it all, then KC did it all. If anyone out there knows the answer, they're lying." Henry Stone says simply, "Rick was my favorite."

T.K. productions capped its relationship with KC by releasing a Greatest Hits package in 1980. KC signed with Epic and recorded The Painter and All in a Night's Work, neither of which duplicated - or even approached - his earlier megasuccess. A song called "Give It Up" from the second Epic album was a huge hit in England, but Epic declined to release it stateside, so KC put it out on his own Mecca label, and it enjoyed decent sales.

While admitting that T.K. "gave me an opportunity and helped it happen," and while implying he has no animosity toward his old bosses, KC still resents the way he was treated by the label toward the end. "I helped build that company," he says dispassionately. "I got the raw end, I think. I'd go in and there wouldn't be a poster for my new album, no promotion, nothing. I had them audited and they owed me $18 million. To get out of my contract, I told 'em to take that money and stick it up their ass." The figure he cites may seem far-fetched, but money flows fast and wild in the music business. And keeping track was not KC's forte, it was Henry Stone's.

Steve Alamo says, "A person like KC, who has five number-ones in a row, doesn't need to be promoted. If they released a new Michael Jackson, and didn't promote it, and it was a good album, do you think it would be lost to the world? I'm not saying we did or did not promote him, I'm saying that's ludicrous." As far as the financial allegations, Alamo says, "Those points were handled after I was gone [from T.K.]. I don't know if he had money due or not. But I know he got big advances up-front, like many of the artists. What we did pay him was enough to support half of North Miami." He adds that he still considers KC a friend.

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