HigterFrequency COLUM


Soundgraphics column

Takashi Ishihara Column 02

Behind The scenes of K.C & The Sunshine Band's Break

Text : Takashi Ishihara

In comparison with other genres such as jazz country music etc, American soul music had very different characteristic qualities depending on where the music came from. Famous examples are Detroit's Motown, Chicago's Chess, Checker, Memphis' STAX/VOLT and HI, metropolitan Philadelphia's PHILADELPHIA INETRNATIONAL, LA's SOLAR etc. Each of these labels were active in bringing out there own individual unique sounds in soul.

At this time, in the beginning of the 70's, a gentleman by the name of Henry Stone from Miami Florida came onto the scene. Henry Stone ran a recording studio and owned a wholesale business. Henry Stone took all the independent labels around him (CAT, GLADES, T.K., ALSTON, BLUE CANDLE, KAYUETTE etc) and formed them into one entity, T.K. Production, and went on to deliver numerous hits.

The first was George McRae's "Rock Your Baby". This track successfully debuted at #1 on the Billboard chart (July 13 1974) and was released world wide through a distribution deal with major label, RCA, and led to the worldwide recognition of T.K. Production. "Rock Your Baby" was written, composed and produced by none other than Casey &; Finch, Casey who will go on to become the leader of the hit group. This track was not the first production by the duo Casey &; Finch. Before "Rock Your Baby", they wrote and produced songs Betty Wright, Jimmie Vaughn. These songs made the hit charts and at the time they produced "Rock Your Baby", they were the same kind of existence as Leiber & Stoller were to MOTOWN.

Casey & Finch started out as backing musicians for these hit acts and after building a career as a successful songwriting and producing duo, they teamed up with a guitar player, drummer and conga player to form K.C. & The Sunshine Band. K.C. & The Sunshine Band went on to deliver the hits "Get Down Tonight", debuting at #1 on the Billboard chart (Aug 30 1975) and "That's The Way" which debuted at #1 on both the Japan Oricon chart and Billboard chart (Nov 22 1975). Up Until the 1980 Billboard #1 hit "Please Don't Go" (Jan 5 1980) K.C. & The Sunshine Band had 5 number one US hits.

One of the reasons, I feel, for the success of the band in Japan was the warm and dry sound they had, which was achieved by recording in a wooden studio. Unlike the music coming out of NY and LA, which were recorded in high tech studios and sounded very calculated, the sound was like the warmth of the sun. It had that natural, hand-made and invigorating sound that captured the hearts of Japanese music lovers and no doubt in my mind, led to the hit of this song.

I think another reason for the hit would be the simple melody, easy to remember lyrics and the impact of the key phrase. Especially because of anybody could sing the chorus, which is an essential element of hit pop. As I wrote in the part 1, my recollection of the time was that it was very difficult to get radio stations to play disco, but the directors of the radio stations played K.C. & The Sunshine Band as hit pop and played their music more than any other disco tune. As a result, I recall, the expansive airplay at discos and on radio led to K.C. & The Sunshine band becoming a huge hit.

But probably the strongest impression I got as the A&R for this act at the time was how the idol good looks of Casey & Finch captured the interest of junior and high school girls, which was a first for disco music. Many young school girls who were hooked by their good looks (Casey was especially popular) would call asking about the band, and in no time there were fan clubs sprouting everywhere, which was a precedent for this genre music. Another good example is when the rock magazines, which at the time would never cover disco music, placed photos of K.C& The Sunshine Band in their magazines. Without a doubt a true testament to the level of their popularity.

20 years since then, I hear that tracks like "That's The Way" etc are still very popular. After reading this column, I hope you can grasp just how big K.C. & The sunshine Band were with hits that well surpassed the domestic hits. As this was the first hit artist that I handled, for me K.C. & The Sunshine Band are a very special and unforgettable act.

Takashi Ishihara Profile
Born in 1948. Takashi Ishihara joined Nippon Victor in 1970 and was the Disco/Soul A&R for the RCA Label. Takashi Ishihara was personally responsible for making KC & The Sunshine Band into a million hit. Furthermore, he was A&R for the Flying Dutchman label, home to greats such as Gil Scott Heron, Gato Barbieri, Lonnie Liston Smith and more. In the 80's Takashi Ishihara participated in the establishment of Alpha Moon. Takashi Ishihara is presently an Executive Director at Warner Music Japan and is A&R for the Moon label, home to the hit artists Tatsuro Yamashita and Mariya Takeuchi. Takashi Ishihara is also well known to be an avid vinyl collector. According to Takashi Ishihara "I have about 100,000 vinyls". It Takashi Ishihara is a music freak and a true maverick of the music industry.

Part 01