An Interview with Don Cheek
Prescott Now: How long have you been playing?
Don Cheek: Our first official gig as The CheekTones was Feb 3, 2007 — right there on the patio at Coyote Joe’s, which is now Whiskey River! The only original members are me on guitar and vocals, and Ines (rhymes with Guinness) Vitols, who plays violin.
In 2012 we added Drew Hall on lead guitar; in 2021 Cozzy Bohrman took over bass duties; and in ’22, Scott Ellis joined us on drums. It’s a killer lineup — everyone is such a good fit. These kids play well together!
Prescott Now: What genre or genres of music do you play? What about them inspires you?
Don Cheek: Always the hardest question — it’s not easy to label what we play. One name for it is “friendly rock and roll.” It’s a mix of classic rock, with a little Americana, a little blues, a little folk and a smidgin of country.
We always play some originals and we’re fortunate that so many of our fans know them and sing along. We like to play songs you don’t hear in bars much — obscure cuts by artists you know. We always play some originals that I’ve written, and we’re fortunate that so many of our fans know them and sing along.
Prescott Now: What is the key to being a successful musical act in Prescott and Northern Arizona?
Don Cheek: If you’re talking about playing bars and clubs, it’s a good idea to mix in songs people know, songs that get their feet moving and their heart pumping. It’s not complicated. And you have to show up and have fun — folks are out to have a good time, and you set that tone. We’ve been told many times, the thing people like about us is that it looks like we’re having fun. ‘Cause we are!
Prescott Now: What’s the smallest audience you’ve ever played for, and the biggest?
Don Cheek: We played the grand opening of CityScape in Phoenix, back in 2010. We went on right before Third Eye Blind, and the crowd was up to a couple thousand. And we’re told that the crowd for our shows in the Prescott Summer Concert series is around 2,000, but who knows for sure?
We once played the 10-12 Lounge in Clarkdale on a Saturday, and the “crowd” was two kind ladies who drove over from Prescott, and two patrons at the bar. We seldom play to an empty room these days.
Prescott Now: Where do you find the inspiration for your songwriting or
Don Cheek: It’s clear from a CheekTones’ show that we dig playing for our regular crowd, our fans and friends, and it’s even better when newcomers wander in and just can’t leave. We of course love the music, love the onstage camaraderie, but it’s the connection to the audience, the smiling faces, that keeps us coming back.
Prescott Now: What brought you to Prescott?
Don Cheek: I retired here; Cozzy grew up here; Ines came to attend Prescott College and stayed; Scott came from the Valley decades ago, and Drew moved here as a teenager.
Prescott is a musical town, with so many venues close together, and we’re booked right here as much as we can do — and it’s all only minutes from home. We’ve been called “Prescott’s House Band” by some. We’re just a hometown band, playing in a place we love.