Rock Your Baby was written in 1974 by then twenty-year old bass player Richard Finch and keyboardist Harry Wayne Casey, while they were both working at independent label TK Records in Florida.
Finch had been a teenage prodigy, having worked on over 100 singles as an engineer before the age of 17. Within weeks of meeting Casey, they began writing songs together, recording demos for what would become KC and The Sunshine Band.
George McCrae had been a session singer, and the leader of his own band The Jivin’ Jets, before becoming manager to his then wife, Gwen. He had been on the point of giving up music, having made his mind up to study law enforcement. George and Gwen had previously recorded for Henry Stone, the owner of TK records, and it was suggested that Gwen record a vocal for Rock Your Baby. When she was late for the session, George stepped in and it suited his voice so well that TK released it as a single.
“I put KC and Finch together since KC made it known to me that he liked to write music. They would hang around and work in the studio after everybody left at midnight. They went upstairs in the studio to make tracks so one day they came down with a track to my office. They played this track for me and said it was a song for KC, but KC couldn’t sing it cause it was a little too high. Sitting in my office was George McCrae who I knew had a high voice and was married to Gwen. George came up to the studio and cut the record and brought the finished product downstairs and it was a smash hit of course.” Henry Stone
The demo backing track, recorded by Casey and Finch with guitarist Jerome Smith, was what was used for the release, so Rock Your Baby became notable for being the first to completely replace the drummer with a drum machine, in this case an early Roland. The song went to number one in the United States and United Kingdom, before repeating the feat all over the world. It eventually sold over 10 million copies, becoming known as disco’s first huge hit.
Its success spurred Finch and Casey on, and KC and The Sunshine Band quickly followed up with Get Down Tonight and That’s The Way I Like It, both also massive international hits. Gwen McCrae, a tremendous singer, went on to record Rockin’ Chair, Funky Sensation, and Keep The Fire Burning among others, all of which stand the test of time as enduring funk, soul and disco standards. So as great as Rock Your Baby turned out, it would be fascinating to hear what Gwen’s very different tone would have made of it if she’d made it to the studio on time.
Henry Stone quote from Bernard Lopez of DiscoMusic.com