By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Henry Stone insists KC was treated like all star musicians. "They forget when they get their advances. There was a period he must have forgot about, where he was getting $20,000 a week. That's the record business. The millions he did earn, he earned it, I didn't give him anything."
Actually, the dispute between KC and T.K. ran deeper, and it contributed to T.K.'s demise in the early Eighties. Because of the revolution in the distribution business, companies were sending outrageous numbers of records on consignment to retailers, only to have almost as many returned to them. "We'd ship platinum [one million records]," Stone recalls. "And retailers would ship back platinum and gold. The things had babies out there." Product overload aside, Stone feels that KC's complaint came awful late in the game. "If we didn't pay KC, he could have broken his contract in the first year. That's the record business, though, and you can't change that unless a person can stay a superstar."
Troubles at T.K. reflected industry-wide chaos. "Almost all the labels were internally bankrupt," asserts Steve Alamo. "Because they were shipping so many records, they thought they had hits out there. CBS and Warner Bros. could simply call upstairs for more cash, but we had a bank loan, a demand loan, which means they could call it in at any time - `We need the money by Monday.' The bank was nervous about the industry and called in the loan. We raised enough to satisfy the bank, but at that point we were running a business with bills of $500,000 a month. That's the real story. I was there with the bankers in 1980 when we filed Chapter 11." T.K. went through bankruptcy proceedings, a fire ripped through the Tone warehouse, and everybody moved on.
KC's troubles worsened quickly. He says he met an investor who wanted to bankroll the continuation of his career, but who, KC claims, "shafted me for a few million." Part of their problem, KC recalls, was that his would-be benefactor wanted him to move to Atlanta, where he had his headquarters. But KC didn't want to leave Miami.
On January 15, 1982, KC was involved in an automobile accident in Hialeah that temporarily paralyzed one side of his body. "I was in traction here at home for six months," he recalls. "It took me a year to recuperate."
As painful as that must have been, another trauma clearly strikes deeper with KC. "I was remortgaging this house in 1987," he says with a wave of his hand. "These idiots from the other mortgage company pulled a stunt to make some quick money. So the other mortgage went through. It was the Christmas holidays, and papers weren't going from desk to desk." According to some accounts, KC came so close to eviction that his furniture was actually moved out. A friend says KC was virtually suicidal due to the threat of losing his first and only house. He's still angry, and mentions the possibility of filing a lawsuit, for vindication if nothing else.
The Eighties, perhaps thankfully for Harry Wayne Casey, have ended. But there was one other tragedy in that decade, the most hurtful and difficult to reconcile of all. In 1984 Harry L., the beloved patriarch who "never met a stranger," as Mrs. Casey puts it, died. "When his father died," KC's mother recalls, "Sparky was devastated."
KC says that his religious faith helped him endure the loss. "How to explain it?" he offers. "I feel I'm very religious, but no one on this earth is perfect. My interpretation of the Bible might be different from someone else's interpretation. But I believe in God and I believe in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. That's the power. That's what's done all this. Who else would do this except God?"
And indeed, although the devoutly religious family may not see it quite that way, to hear Mrs. Casey tell it, her son might have been consoled as much by his faith in his dogs as by his faith in God. "After the funeral, he went to bed and the [Pentecostal] pastor went in to pray for him," Mrs. Casey recalls. "Candy [the mother of retrievers Georgia and Albert] was up there, and the pastor, well, he started laughing. Every time he put his hand on Sparky to pray for him, Candy would get between them." And KC still lives for his two pets. "That's why he loves to be home," says Mrs. Casey. "Because he loves those dogs. He could make a comeback easily, but I don't think he wants to travel as much. He got tired."
Weariness aside, KC definitely does want to come back. "I'm bored. Depressed. I mean, I'm too talented to be sitting around. The first couple of years of my retirement, or whatever, I enjoyed it tremendously. For ten years I'd had to live out of suitcases, and it was nice to touch bases with reality. But in these last couple of years, performing again, the response [from audiences] has been beyond my wildest dream. I miss it. I belong on the stage. And this time, I won't stop."