Harry Wayne Casey (KC), would like to make it clear that Finch has not been a member of KC and the Sunshine Band for over 30 years, and maintains that Finch did not start the band. Casey is justifiably concerned that erroneous news stories have given the impression that Finch is still associated with the band, and this is not true. Finch's legal problems should in no way reflect on the current members of KC and the Sunshine Band, some of whom were not born when Rick left the band. The interview below took place November 11, 2009.
Rick Finch: Well, it wasn't called TK Records until we had a #1 record with George McCrae ("Rock Your Baby"). It was actually called Tone Distributors, which was a huge block-long warehouse and a very powerful one-stop independent record distributor. They would handle all the labels, and they definitely captured what was going on at any given moment. Whenever there was a buzz in the record industry, Henry (Stone) would know about it, because his distributor was very, very hot. And he used to service all of the record stores around the southeast region of the United States. Sometimes records from manufacturers would come in from Louisiana, Memphis or Nashville, go to his distributor, then go back up the United States. You couldn't buy it directly from the record company; you had to get it from the distributor.
As a kid I was paying attention to everything. You know, when you're young you're really clairvoyant and you can see all kinds of stuff. So, it was like, Wow, wouldn't it be a great idea to mix this information center from the front part of the building, and then in the back of the building there was this little funky R&B recording studio where people would go back there and record. It was a little production company. There was this 8-track studio upstairs on 1" tape, and people would go back there and just start recording away, and then whenever something was worthy of coming out, Henry would have it pressed, because there were local pressing plants all over south Florida back then. There were a lot of R&B records coming out, like Benny Latimore and Betty Wright. Henry was just trying to make some local chart action happen. The way business worked back then, if you had a handful of artists, and everybody sold just a little bit, it was the same thing as making a hit record, because it all adds up.
Songfacts: Did you guys ever record anybody we've heard of?
Rick: Let's see, Betty Wright, George McCrae, Bobby Caldwell, yeah, who knows who the tunes went for? Because no one ever said. There would be Willie Clarke or Clarence Reid as writers, or there would be whoever else had an idea. It could be Gwen McCrae, it could be Benny Latimore, it could be Timmy Thomas.
Songfacts: So you guys were writing and recording just the tracks, and then a vocalist would put their tracks on later?
Rick: Yeah, sometimes a writer would have an idea for a song, and he would direct us, and we would be the session musicians. Of course, tracks are made differently today – everybody does everything inside the computer. But back then, the arrangements would be rehearsed and played over and over and over and over again until the arrangement was smooth enough to turn on the tape recorder, and then of course we'd go about trying to get that magic take to build upon.
There was a young rhythm section that was recording, for the most part, all of the R&B records out of TK Records. They would just interchange the lead singer and/or the writers. But for the most part it was Jerome Smith on guitar, Robert Johnson on drums, and they would also change out the bass player or the keyboard player for a different flavor. It would either be me on bass, or Ron Bodgon, who was a much older guy. He was about 38, and I was only about 16. Jerome and myself and Robert, we were all really young cats in our teens. The keyboard player or writer would sometimes be 20, 30 years older than the guys playing the rhythm stuff.
There would not be a KC and the Sunshine Band without Jerome and Robert. Jerome and Robert were the mainstay session cats at T.K. Records. These guys were on fire! They had this Funk Brothers thing going on, and I am very happy to have worked with these two very wonderful guys. They always had a sense of workability and openness - you could record with these guys on 12 different tunes and no two recordings would sound the same. I bonded with them as a kid engineer early on, we always had a great friendship and deep admiration for one another. This of course set a good foundation for making a band concept.
Songfacts: And at some point you guys come up with "Rock Your Baby."
It took me a little bit of time to put all the pieces of the puzzle together: there's this really kickass distributor in the front that's on the pulse of what's selling, and then there's this recording studio in the back. But I noticed that the people in the back were not paying attention to what was hot and what was not. And I was like, Okay, this is not rocket science. Anybody would pick up a piece of paper and look at the charts and see what's hot and try to follow that stuff, and then go back in the studio and try to make something that great. And then maybe you could sell something too. So I started incorporating this way of thinking without telling anybody. I also recommended that KC do the same. He wasn't paying attention either because he was working in the warehouse, what they call pulling orders. So I started directing KC in that direction, and we started paying attention to what sounded good, and we found that the sounds that were good and professional sold, and the ones that weren't, did not. So we started tailoring our crappy productions back then after something that could sound as simple as possible, and have as much soul as possible. You've gotta remember, we're two little white boys. He's from Hialeah, and I'm from Opa-Locka. We had just met, and Willie Clarke recommended that we work together. By the time I met him, I had already recorded 100 and something 45 rpm records with various black artists at TK.
Songfacts: Were the guys over at TK all black guys?
Rick: Yeah, in the recording production studio area, it was a completely black company, except for Henry Stone and Steve Alaimo. The guys who had the sound that everybody wanted to use were Jerome Smith and Robert Johnson. Jerome used to play the guitar very, very spirited. Most of the recordings that were taking place back then were for Betty Wright, and were written by Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke. I learned by hanging out. I started skipping school, and I just stayed there every day. I would wake up in the morning and I would go to homeroom at my school to get my attendance in, but then I would stay the rest of the day at the recording studio. My mom didn't know anything for a whole year. And then one day I came home with a check for like $227,000, and I showed it to my mom. I said, "Mom, do you want the bad news first, or the good news?" She says, "What are you talking about?" I said, "Well, we have a hit record on the radio. And the bad news: I've been skipping school for a year." But she didn't even say anything about the school. She said, "Where did you get that check? You'd better take it back. You're gonna get us into trouble. Let me see that." She just couldn't believe it. My mom was very, very special. I had 5 brothers and one sister, but I think I was her pet or something, because she used to let me get away with stuff that she wouldn't let the other brothers get away with. She gave me the gut instinct that I could do this and get away with it.
Songfacts: So what did you do to earn that $227,000 check?
Rick: That was the first check that came in on "Rock Your Baby." And that was right in the middle of a gas crisis. I was floored. I couldn't figure out what to do next. I said, well, the first thing I'm gonna do is I'm gonna give my mom a whole bunch of money and buy her a Jaguar and pay off her house. My mom didn't even have a driver's license, but I went ahead and bought her the Jaguar anyway. She didn't get a driver's license until maybe 7 years after. But the Jaguar sat in the yard in front of her new house, and I was proud that I could employ my brothers and take everybody on the road. But it all started with "Rock Your Baby." Without "Rock Your Baby" there would be no KC and the Sunshine Band.
Songfacts: How did the song come about?
Songfacts: I don't.
Rick: It was a pretty big world message type song. Timmy Thomas is a really wonderful guy, he's a schoolteacher. That was his biggest record. But anyway, his organ was left up in the studio, and "Rock Your Baby" became born unto this crazy drum machine that was inside of this Lowry organ that he left there. We wanted to have some steadiness about our demos, KC and I. KC would get on the piano or the Fender Rhodes and start playing away, and we would just jam. And the only way we could record was by taking the tape that was thrown away. I would gather it back up and spin it back onto a reel. Sometimes there would be two or three different types of tape, so the sound would change in the middle of the recording.
I used to use that as a tempo map, and I would play along with the drum machine. In the beginning it would hide my errors, but it would also teach me to be a better drummer, because I was paying attention to it that closely. Then we would build on that. We had a 1" 8-track machine and I had a cheap Japanese bass. We were just recording and recording and recording. And one night, this one track came out like better than anything else. It was like God was in the building or something - we had been blessed. It was like the hunger and desire was so incredibly overwhelming that some magical moment happened in there. We knew to build on that track.
There were a bunch of records coming out at that point. Hues Corporation had a song called "Rock The Boat," and Harry and I were also paying attention to the chart actions at clubs, because club records, according to Henry's direction, were doing better than just regular R&B Records. Back then you could sneak into a club and they didn't check your ID, so Harry and I would once in a while go sneak into the local clubs. There was one on Southwest 8th Street in Miami, Florida, that played dance music. We'd go in there for about an hour or two until it got to be way too late for us to be there. And we'd pay attention to what brought the people to the dance floor, and what made them sit down. So we started gearing ourselves to writing more in that direction. "Rock Your Baby" was inspired by the gathering of all that information.
Songfacts: So it wasn't just you and KC putting this together, it was the guys from the band?
Rick: Originally, "Rock Your Baby," the only two musicians were KC and I, and then we paid Jerome Smith $15 to put a guitar on it. In fact, everything on the first George McCrae album was just KC and I, except we'd bring in a guest guitarist here and there. We didn't have any budget, so we had to come up with the money ourselves.
Songfacts: That's very resourceful. You guys had this whole track together, how did you come up with the lyrics?
Rick: It took a while. The track was laying around for a pretty good bit before we came up with any of the words. But we weren't in a rush to make the wrong thing happen. We also discovered that through time you make good decisions. Because I saw the people who were in a hurry to get in and get out of there. You know, doing it on tape is one thing, but jeez, can you imagine the guys who put stuff together in an hour on Pro Tools? If you don't build time into a recording, how is it gonna last? Back in the days of tape you were forced to put time into a recording with all of the elements that you had to deal with, like rewinding the tape, putting the tape on the machine, turning on the microphones, getting the settings. The equipment was very crude, but it sounded great. We had great microphones. Back then great microphones were cheap. We had a Neumann 47, a Neumann 67, and we had RCA ribbon mikes, all kinds of crazy stuff.
But I have an interesting story to tell you about the bass drum sound on "Rock Your Baby." It was actually a transistor radio speaker. One day the microphone was broken for the kick drum. Being the electronics gadget dude that I was, I figured maybe the diaphragm was broken inside the microphone. I couldn't figure out why it wouldn't work, but it didn't. So I took that microphone apart, and I used the transformer inside and connected it to a regular speaker from a little tiny pocket radio. I put the speaker in the bass drum, and that's what I used as a mic for the kick on the "Rock Your Baby." (laughs) It came out really good.
Songfacts: You played that drum?
Rick: Yeah, it was pretty interesting.
Songfacts: It sounds like this song set the stage for the songwriting partnership of Richard Finch and Harry Wayne Casey. Were you guys writing the lyrics together, throwing ideas off each other…
Rick: I would be more directing the arrangements of the music and coming up with the titles. And then Harry would write the lyrics. Harry was a pretty good lyric writer. But coming up with the titles and coming up with the musical arrangements, that would be me, because I had been doing that already when I met Harry.
Songfacts: And that's how you guys wrote for most of your partnership?
Rick: Oh yeah. When we started seeing the success from "Rock Your Baby," we got this frenzy of recording, we got this great feeling of we need to go record more stuff. We would get Jerome and Robert, and KC would come up with a basic idea on the piano or something like that, and I would be the arranger/producer/bass player/engineer guy, who would help set the tempos and make sure it sounded hot, that the arrangement was with it, and that it moved. I picked up on that from back in the day with being a cover band for country and western stuff, because all of that old country stuff has smoothness. All the Patsy Cline, Webb Pierce, Buck Owens, all that old stuff was written really slippery and it had a soulful country feel about it. All the old country stuff had more soul to it - this new stuff is too mathematically correct, and doesn't really have too much life to it.
Songfacts: That's really interesting how you're drawing a parallel from old Buck Owens to KC and the Sunshine Band's hits.
Rick: Yeah, because if you listen really carefully to KC and the Sunshine Band, you'll hear the influences of country, Caribbean, R&B, and I don't know what else. (laughs) KC's dad was very Irish and his mom was very Italian. So I'm sure he had both of those influences, including church. He had an early love for gospel tunes and Motown as well.
I would always pay attention to the chart action that was going on. For example, "Get Down Tonight" was inspired by a record by Gilbert O'Sullivan called "Bad Dog, Baby" - (singing) "Well, I told you once before, and I won't tell you no more to get down, and get down, and get down. You're a bad dog, baby, but I still want you around." He wrote that song about his dog. That record was really hot back then. And I was like, Okay, this guy has a great idea. He's talking about "get down." But I didn't find out until later on he was talking about his dog. And I was like, Well, that's really square. How hip is that? So we just kept taking it to the next level. We started being like a helicopter to the situation and paying attention to what everyone else was doing, and then trying to come up with something better and more hip. "Get Down" is too inconclusive. It has to say "get down – something else." So we figured out to call it "Get Down Tonight." And that was the first big one for KC and the Sunshine Band.
Songfacts: You mention that you love being behind the curtain, but this sounds like it got taken to an extreme, because by naming the band KC and the Sunshine Band, that implied that KC was the leader of the band, and it was just a bunch of other guys behind him.
Rick: It used to be KC and the Sunshine Junkanoo Band, because when I first started working with KC he had this idea to involve these steel drums and all this stuff from the Caribbean, which was a lot to do back then, especially in a small 8-track studio. But how the Sunshine part came up is that people around KC used to call me "Sunshine" because I was all happy and bubbly and I always smiled wherever I went. Sherry Smith and Dutch Shaefer came up with the name. Dutch was a radio station DJ-went-promotions guy at TK Records hired by Henry. And then so was Sherry. They all worked at this radio station in San Francisco called KFRC. I guess they wanted to move to Miami, and they got hired by Henry to do promotions and publicity and stuff like that. But it was funny, because Dutch and Sherry used to call me Sunshine all the time, and it wound up being KC and the Sunshine Band. Also we were from the Sunshine State.
Songfacts: And were you okay with that?
Rick: Yeah, of course. You can't take anything too seriously; you just have fun with it.
Songfacts: But how do you feel about KC becoming the face of KC and the Sunshine Band?
Songfacts: It sounds like KC is the guy who did want to be out in front.
Rick: Oh yeah, absolutely. That was the intention all along. I mean, you have to also know that KC was singing sometimes occasionally at nighttime with these rhythm section cats. Jerome and Robert also had a nighttime face, and that was called The Ocean Liners. That's all they wanted to do was play. They would play in the studio in the day to make records, to make a little cash here or there, and then they would go out at night and play night clubs. They would play cover versions. So about once a week or so, KC would appear with the Ocean Liners as the Blue Eyed Soul Brother, and then go out and sing Motown stuff.
But you know what? Some of the Motown like by the Supremes and stuff, it didn't have so much soul. It had more pop-ability and more commercialism.
Songfacts: Did you guys model yourselves on that?
Rick: I would say so, yeah. We didn't have equipment like that, but we wanted to be like that. But then it's really funny, I watched the documentary, and I see that they had crappier equipment than we did. (laughs) So I'm really surprised that we came out with great sounding stuff.
But I gotta tell you a funny twist to the sound of TK Records. You know, me learning the theory of electronics and stuff like that, Mr. Martin also told me about how the theory of recording on tape works, and how you have to adjust the bias, and then different kinds of tape require different kinds of bias settings. And I was like, Hmmmmm, I think I know what I'm gonna do. The EQ and the console that we recorded on back in the day was very, very crude. And I think the highest number of high end that you could look forward to was maybe 7 1/2, and you could only boost it by like 5 or 6. So without telling anybody, I over-biased the machine, so that when you recorded it, it came back more sparkling. So everything above 10,000 cycles, it got shimmering. It had this very shimmering, beautiful effect to it. And then I directed Henry Stone and I said, Listen, you guys can't keep buying three or four different kinds of tape. You have to stick to one brand. Because the bias is gonna keep changing, the sound is gonna keep changing, and it's not easy to align an 8-track machine because the transport itself was very, very crude. I got everybody to understand that, and stop eating fried chicken and handling the tape at the same time, or sticking heavy rolls of tape on top of the transport itself, because it would bend the guide, and once the guides got bent, all the brilliance would and the high end would leave completely.
Songfacts: Well, you figured out how to run the studio like a wizard. And when you listen to "Get Down Tonight," there's definitely some stuff on there that is musically really innovative. Can you tell me a little bit about creating the track for that?
Rick: Sure. I was always into doing weird science. One time in another session I observed somebody slowing down the tape machine. So I couldn't wait to try this idea, and I figured the right track to do that on was "Get Down Tonight." I said, "We need to put something interesting on this track that really keeps the buzz, that really keeps the excitement going all the way through without being too artificial sounding." And so Jaybird - Jerome Smith, we called him Jaybird - he was like, "Let's do it, Finch, come on, man, let's do this thing!" He was always an up-spirited, "I don't care, I'll try anything" kind of guy. So I slowed down the tape machine from 15 IPS (Inches per Second) to 7½ IPS, and we put on this guitar riff that started in the beginning as a lead. Then I just let him play all the way through. I think maybe we punched in (made an edit) once or twice… it was like magic. That was our second gift, after "Rock Your Baby." Yes! This is incredible. And then the track sat around for almost a year before we could come up with any words!
I directed KC as black as possible, and we multi-tracked his voice and got it sounding really nice and thick and funky and empty, and swinging over the beat. Because the back beat was paramount. We took that 8-track tape and we transferred it to 16-track, and we finished off the mix over at Criteria. We were in Studio A at Criteria, and I just loved being in that room. You talk about hit records that were created in a studio, you could just feel the spirit in there. It was just putting your heart out there, using your gut instinct and just trying to record the magic.
SF: And then once that hits, you guys follow this formula very effectively.
Rick: Absolutely. Because you can't reinvent yourself too much. I started getting scared, because it started becoming bigger than us. It was really hard to not over-invent yourself, but just keep giving people the same quality again and again and again. You'll see where people started reviewing us and saying, "Wow, it sounds like the same thing over and over and over again." But you know what? I learned early on that the people don't get tired of it - the reviewers do. The reviewers are like, "Okay, this is the same shit, different lyrics. Same groove." But I learned to pay attention to people creating a sound, and that's all I was doing. They didn't talk about Motown like that. Motown had a sound for every artist that they had, the only difference was the lead singer. They used to have those cigarette-heavy gravelly voices, or they had the beautiful girls singing. It's one or the other. But I had a deep admiration for that "Wow!" that James Brown/Otis Redding, fiery cigarette gravelly voice. And I tried to make KC sound like that as much as possible. It was not easy, trust me. (laughs)
Songfacts: So after "Get Down Tonight," you do this again with "That's The Way I Like It."
Rick: Yeah. That happened right away afterwards. We were all happy, and you could tell. We transferred the excitement of that hit feeling from "Get Down Tonight," and trust me, then we were all like, "Oh, my God, this is amazing! We've done it! Let's put the magic on something else." And you could definitely hear the excitement and the magic from that first hit record with "That's The Way I Like It," because we were all pumped, and we were all stoked. If you listen to that record closely, you can hear everyone smiling while they're singing. Especially the background singers. It was a very, very magic moment. I mean, we're in Miami, Florida, and we're in a little independent label, and we're becoming successful? C'mon, man, this is not possible, this must be a dream!
Songfacts: I was reading somewhere that the song was a lot more risqué when it started.
Rick: Oh yeah. We had to tone down the words a little bit, it used to be called "What You Want." And I was like, "No, KC. That's not commercial enough, people aren't gonna figure out what you're saying." Back then you had to watch what you say. Not like today. People come on the radio and cuss and say all kinds of shit, but back then, you had to watch yo' mouth.
Songfacts: But there's only so many ways to say what you're saying here. You know, "that's the way I like it"…
Rick: Yeah, but you can be suggestive in a poetic way. It can mean whatever to whoever the listener is, and it doesn't really tie it down to any one thing or gender. So I figured that the more open you keep it, and unresolved, the more people you draw in.
Songfacts: Here's something that always interests me. It sounds like the club culture of the '70s became the overriding pop culture. So the movie everybody was going to was Saturday Night Fever, they're watching TV shows about disco, the songs are about being in a club. Yet how many people actually went to these clubs?
Rick: The club thing was going on for a long time, and no one was talking about it. Lord knows KC and I went around before we were of legal age and got into these clubs and watched people go crazy on this underground stuff that was going on that nobody knew about on the radio. There was a whole underground cult of dance music going on, vinyl that no one knew about. There was a song out there called "Woman" by a group called Barabas on the early Epic days. It was this heavily influenced jungle record that would get people on the dance floor, drunk, sweating, so close to each other - it was like, Wow, this is amazing, I want in on this. We were trying to figure out how to get this to happen with KC and the Sunshine Band. I also saw that the club records were not being played on the radio. So I said, "Okay, this is not commercial. The people are dancing to this music, but how is it selling?" I didn't figure out that the DJs were buying it. I forgot that the DJs are a whole other market that you can sell records to, that radio never heard of back then. But back then, radio was paying attention to the people, and it was also giving the people what they want. You could call a radio station and whether they lied to you about, "Yeah, I'll play your record or not," at least the people felt like they were connecting with something.
Songfacts: And the lyrics that you're coming up with are things that people would say in a club.
Rick: Yes, there you go. (laughing) We got the source of information in real time. And we did the same thing when we went out on the road. As we started performing, we'd pay attention to what the people were doing, either body moves or body language, and try to transfer that back into the next production. As soon as we got back off the road we'd go right into the studio with that freshly captured energy, start recording, and not try to think too much. You know, thinking is not a good thing.
Songfacts: This is all coming together. So tell me about "Shake Your Booty."
Rick: That was definitely from watching the people out there, for sure. That was Harry watching the people, and like, Okay, we have to take advantage of this. The Bump was big back then, and then every once in a while you'd see someone break loose and shake their booty like Jell-O. We figured, okay, how do you write about this? You know, say it like it is. We also were collecting phrases, trying to find a buzz word and write about it, or a catch phrase, and try and expound on that. Just trying to keep it fun.
Songfacts: And then you get into "I'm Your Boogie Man." Tell me about that song.
Rick: That song was written about one particular DJ at a radio station in Miami, Florida. His name was Robert Walker. He believed in us, and is the guy who broke "Get Down Tonight." There were two program directors at this radio station called Y-100. It was Bill Tanner and Robert W. Walker. Robert W. Walker was really the guy with the ears at the radio station. We wrote the song about him without telling him. He was the Boogie Man that brought all the funk and the good feeling and the vibes to the people every morning. It sounded like we were talking about us, but we weren't. We were actually talking about a DJ.
A lot of DJs got offended and took it wrong. For example, Frankie Crocker at WBLS in New York thought we were talking about black guys. We were scheduled to go on the air, and when he found out we were white he cancelled the interview right at that very moment. He said, "Pull them cracker's records off the radio. I didn't know they was white! Get them out of my studio!" But then, he apologized, and he let us come back on the air sometime later.
Songfacts: Wow. And then you come up with another hit right after that with "Keep It Comin' Love."
Rick: Yeah, we didn't know what else to write about at that point. We were like, Okay, now what? We gotta figure out a way to keep it comin'. And then that's what we started writing about, keep it comin'. Okay, and then what? Keep it comin', love. That's why there's no lyrics in that song, if you notice it just says, "Keep it comin', love, don't stop it now, don't stop it now," and that's all it does, it's the same thing. "Don't tell me there is no more." We started writing about shit because we were out of lyrics… we were out of everything at that point. Okay, what do we write about? You know, we're on the third or fourth album, what the hell do we write about now? And so I'm like, Okay, just say it like it is. "Don't tell me there ain't no more, and don't stop it now." (laughing) The funny part about that is in the Midwest everyone thought we were saying "keep it common law," like keep it common law marriage. That's actually what made that record big in the Midwest, and we wouldn't even know that until later. There was a perfect example of people letting it mean what they want it to mean.
Songfacts: And then "Boogie Shoes" ends up on Saturday Night Fever. How did that happen?
Then KC and I got asked to do Miami Vice before they asked Philip Michael Thomas and Don Johnson.
Songfacts: What, to be the actors?
Songfacts: Were you going to be Crockett or Tubbs?
Rick: I was supposed to be the guy for Don Johnson. It was pretty interesting, because off and on again I would just happen into the set while they were recording and talk with the people on the production. I'd just come in and come out. Because back then it was loose, you could do that.
Songfacts: They were shooting this in Miami near where you guys were living?
Rick: Oh yeah.
Songfacts: When did you guys first hear the word "disco"?
Rick: Around '77 or '78. And then I started recognizing that all the stuff we put out was up-tempo. We didn't have any slow songs. Because I figured that slow songs were boring, and we didn't want to have people going to sleep on us. So I said, Okay, we better come up with something different. So we started trying to reinvent ourselves without changing the sound too much. And that was really tough for us to do. So we had a little off point album, which would be the album called Who Do You Love. That's when we were trying to figure out what to do next. And then after that we came up with "Please Don't Go."
Songfacts: Well, tell me about "Please Don't Go." That must have forced you guys out of your comfort zone a bit.
Songfacts: Yeah, but you were working on the track for "Please Don't Go." You have a writing credit on it.
Rick: Oh yeah, of course. If you listen very closely when I'm producing the vocal on that, you'll hear the conviction in KC's voice, because that was the absolute last song that I did produce for KC and the Sunshine Band. And then I left, and the managers recommended that KC get rid of the band and just make it a solo career. So he goes and signs this deal with Epic, I came back for a few minutes to help patch up a song here or there, like "Give It Up."
Songfacts: Well, that's a pretty big deal, that you came back and had some involvement in "Give It Up."
Rick: Yeah, they said, "Please come back and just help us with one more song." And so I did. But then I left again with a bad taste in my mouth, and so did they. We had some really ugly words to one another. That was the beginning of the end. And now there's this extreme hatred that exists from their end. It shouldn't go like that. I've tried over the years to be in touch with Harry but he has a lot of people who seem to be more interested in keeping us apart rather than for us to resolve any past differences. I know what their reasons are and like everything else in life it seems to always boil down to money. It's worth more to them to keep us apart than to allow for things to get patched up. We did a lot of great work as a team – created music that has stood the test of time, music that will outlive both of us. Life's too short for the b.s.
Songfacts: On "Give It Up," did you actually play on that record?
Rick: Yeah, that's me playing.
Songfacts: Did you help produce it?
Rick: I didn't engineer so much. If you listen real closely to that record, you can tell I did not engineer that record too much, it had a different kind of a sound to it. That was also part of the Epic re-think.
Songfacts: What can we listen for in that record that is Richard Finch?
Rick: The bass line, and the smoothness of the song arrangement. After that, nothing. (laughing)
Songfacts: So, Richard, as KC and the Sunshine Band, you guys had 5 #1 hits. You had 6 if you count "Rock Your Baby." Somebody is getting rich. Is it you guys, or is this a case of somebody else kind of pulling the strings here?
Rick: Well, we worked at TK Records without a contract for years when we were working on a handshake with Henry Stone. People would come up to me and they'd go, "Hey, man, that guy's ripping you off. That cracker's ripping you off." I go, "Man, what are you talking about? I got three houses, cars, you're telling me the guy's ripping me off?" I said, "If he's ripping me off, I don't feel it, and I don't care." No one could tell me anything about Henry Stone, because everything that he told me was very, very true. I have extreme love and admiration for that man. I mean, he was like a dad for me. My own dad died when I was very young and my older brothers did the best they good, but Henry Stone had a profound and lasting impact on my life. As far as I'm concerned, Henry didn't do anything wrong. But, you know, there's always talk in the business.
Songfacts: Did you keep your publishing rights, your performance rights?
Rick: No, because I didn't have anything on paper. I was more about being in the studio and having the concepts down and the song arrangements. I was all about the music. And I was really stupid and dumb when it came to simple business stuff. And to be honest with you, all the contracts to me seemed like Japanese, and I saw so much uncomfortable stuff go on in the business when it came to contracts and stuff like that. So I wasn't even trying to understand it and I left it to others to watch out for me and make sure I was protected. And I should have paid more attention. Henry even told me, before the Epic thing came down, he said, "Listen, there's gonna come a time when you wished you had all this on paper." And I was like, "Henry, everything is fine. I don't know what you're talking about." He says, "All right, remember I told you." And exactly a year later was the most devastating point in my life, where I lost everything.
Songfacts: So when you're writing these songs, they're cutting you big checks so you can buy cars and houses—
Rick: Yeah, when we were connected to the company, yeah.
Songfacts: All right. But cut to 30 years later, and the big checks aren't coming to your mail box because you don't own the publishing rights.
Rick: Right. It's still all a mystery to me how it happened, or didn't happen, or how it all went wrong. But it was just very strange. I was caught totally off guard with the way that it all went down.
Songfacts: Is KC in the same situation?
Rick: No, not really. But see, he was smart enough to stay more on top of the business end. The record company went bankrupt after KC went to Epic. And then BMI was bought, they bought out the publishing, as far as I can remember, through Rhino. Rhino bought the entire catalog of KC and the Sunshine Band stuff. And then out of all the publishing stuff, Henry Stone kept some of it, and then the rest of it went to Rhino EMI. So they have the rights to that music as far as I know.
"I am very upset that KC's lawyers executed a contract that manipulated me out of my 50 percent ownership in the music that we created together taking advantage of me when I was not in a capacity to understand what was going on at that particular moment and having an attorney whose background was in Real Estate representing me."
Harry Wayne Casey politely declined our request for an interview, as he did not want to engage in a back-and-forth argument. Instead, he supplied documents detailing court cases he won against Rick in 1986 and again in 2004, where judges in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court ruled that Rick's allegations that he was impaired at the time he signed the contract, or that he was somehow manipulated, were without merit. A telling passage comes in the 2004 case:
"The Court notes a bit of sadness in this case as it relates to the difficulties incurred by Finch as more particularly described on the record of these proceedings. Such difficulties, however, do not excuse the conduct of Finch and his agents."
In this interview, Rick admitted that he was very bad with his business affairs and that he got some terrible advice. Remember, this is the guy who bought his mother a Jaguar even though she couldn't drive. It is clear, however, that the courts believe the 1983 agreement is valid, and Harry Wayne Casey is legally entitled to Rick's share of the royalties.
A reconciliation is unlikely, as Harry and Rick see things very differently, and more lawsuits are likely.
Songfacts: What are you doing these days?
Rick: You know, with everything that came down, it took me a long time to figure out reasons to come back into the business. I had to find the love and the passion to do it again without condition, without worrying about somebody taking advantage of me and all this other stuff. Slowly I found the passion and the heart to do it again, and it's reflected on my new music. I was very lucky to find some people I have common thread with, like their heart and their passion. It's a very money driven business, today more than anything. And people think you can make a big dollar overnight, but you can't. To be realistic, no one's really buying any music so we are doing a lot of out of the box thinking with how we're approaching music and sales and promotion today. I have faith in the people that I'm working with now, and they also have faith in me. And we also have this gut instinct that something is going to break, and something that we can do is going to help them with their path. I just want to try it one more time, try to make my mark one more time. But not myself being a performer, but through other people, just like I did in the beginning – I'm still the behind the scenes guy.
Rick was on the 2010 Grammy Awards ballot in five major categories for his work producing the band Nevada and their first album, …Of The World." November 11, 2009.
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