Classics: George McCrae – Rock Your Baby (TK Records)
Be at the right place, at the right time is exactly what happened to George McCrae. This when he came to record the vocal parts of ‘Rock Your Baby’ back in 1974. As a matter of fact, ‘Rock Your Baby’ was initially meant to feature on KC & The Sunshine Band‘s second album. But producers Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch didn’t have the right vocalist to do it. This being how they came to think of Gwen McCrae. But she happened to be late for the session.
George McCrae, who was around, recorded it alone. His high-pitched voice perfectly coming to place in this environment as a matter of fact. With the whole most likely becoming a part of History. In other words, ‘Rock Your Baby’ turnin’ itself into one of the first hits of the then emerging Disco phenomenon along with The Hues Corporation‘s ‘Rock The Boat’. Selling an estimated eleven million copies worldwide. And pretty much putting the Casey/Finch production pair on the map…
Unsurprisingly, ‘Rock Your Baby’ is George McCrae‘s biggest success ever. With other cuts worth the mention being ‘I Get Lifted’, ‘I Can’t Leave You Alone’ and ‘Look At You’…
– The second of a nine children family, West Palm Beach, FL, native George McCrae formed his band – The Jivin’ Jets – before joining the United States Navy in 1963, at the age of 19. Upon his return, he married Gwen McCrae. Then in 1967 they reformed the group, but soon afterwards they decided to work as a duo, recording for Henry Stone‘s Alston record label. Beginning with ‘Like Yesterday Our Love Is Gone’ in 1969.
Deciding to keep on their respective ways as solo artists, George eventually signed with United Artists and Gwen with Columbia. She happened to be more successful than her husband. This until the moment he came to release ‘Rock Your Baby’ (in 1974) after he’d switched to TK Records. Eventually receiving a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male R&B Vocalist the following year.
Strangely enough, the infectious ‘Look At You’, also included on his ‘Rock Your Baby’ debut-album, didn’t reach the same status. No more than ‘I Get Lifted’ as a matter of fact. Pretty much overlooked by its title track. McCrae nevertheless met extra success with ‘I Can’t Leave You Alone (I Keep Holdin’ On)’ from the same package. Then ‘It’s Been So Long’ from his 1975 eponymous album.
From then on, his popularity began to fade as the decade progressed. Gwen and him divorced in 1976. Then George remarried, moved to Canada and eventually parted ways with TK Records at the end of the 70’s. He eventually made his come-back in 1984 with the ‘One Step Closer To Love’ album. But despite a few extra releases, he never managed to reach the staus that happened to be his in the mid-70’s.
Interestingly enough, he happened to make a quick appearance on UK label Tam Tam Records back in 1990. This with ‘Breathless’ and an Ambient House Remix!
– A native of Indianapolis, IN, Richard Finch moved to Hialeh, FL, along with his family when he was a kid. He started learning the bass guitar in his early teens, then had experiences in various country bands before joinin’ Ball & Chain. More and more interested in audio recording techniques, a schoolmate of his introduced him tp TK Records singer songwriter Clarence Reid. Spending as much time he could at TK, he got hired as a part-time recording engineer for the label. Totalizing the engineering of some more than 100 singles by the age of 17. With Reid and label CEO Henry Stone introducing him to Wayne Casey who was working at the shipping department for the label.
The Casey/Finch songwriting collaboration soon after began. This givin’ birth to songs such as ‘Where Is The Love’ and ‘Rock Your Baby’, respectively for Betty Wright and George McCrae. Then came the formation of KC & The Sunshine Band along with guitarist Jerome Smith and drummer Robert Johnson among others. With the band delivering their debut-single – ‘Blow Your Whistle’ – back in September 1973. However, we would have to wait another few months before seeing KC & Co. topping the charts. This with the boiling hot ‘Get Down Tonight’, then ‘That’s The Way (I Like It)’ from their eponymous (second) album.
1976 also happened to be a good year for KC & The Sunshine Band with their ‘Part 3’ album featuring hits such as ‘(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty’ and ‘I’m Your Boogie Man’ in addition to ‘Keep It Comin’ Love’. ‘Who Do Ya (Love)’, their 1978 fourth album didn’t generate the same following even though including the infectious ‘Sho-Nuff’. But KC Sunshine would top the charts once more with ‘Please Don’t Go’ in 1979. And make some noise although to a lesser extend with the firing ‘Do You Wanna Go Party’, the title track of their album of the likes. This before progressively losing the scope, as if they’d been the victims of the memorable Disco Demolition Night. Sadly unable to jump on the next wagon from then.
No matter what, the Casey/Finch collaboration pretty much prefigured the arrival of production pairs. Being to the Miami Disco sound what would Rinder & Lewis be to California Disco and Nile Rogers & Bernard Edwards to NY Disco. And eventually bringing Jimmy ‘Bo’ Horne to the forefront. This with gems such as ‘Gimme Some’ in 1975. Then ‘Spank’ and ‘Dance Across The Floor’ in 1978. Not to mention ‘You Get Me Hot’ in 1979, then ‘Is It In’ the year after. And they also happened to produce Paul Lewis‘ cover version of Eddie Kendricks‘ classic ‘Girl You Need A Change Of Mind’ in 1979.
Jerome Smith sadly died, aged 47, on Jul. 28, 2000 in a construction accident in West Palm Beach, FL, where he worked as a bulldozer operator.