Village News Reporter
The Cher tribute band Cher'd will have its first performance of 2023 June 30 at the Historic Grant Ritz Theater in Escondido, and Fallbrook's Chris Yates will be the bassist.
"We're really excited about that," Yates said.
Debbra Sweet, who lives in Vista, portrays Cher in the tribute band with the final letter of Cher'd reflecting the first letter of Sweet's first name. The other three band members all live in Carlsbad: Barry Brown plays lead guitar, Barry Allen is the keyboardist, and Roger Friend is the drummer.
"I feel honored to be on the same stage with these incredible musicians," Yates said.
Yates, who is now 61, was raised in La Jolla and attended The Bishop's School. "We followed all the local bands," he said. "We started playing around 14 or so."
Led Zeppelin and Van Halen were popular during Yates' high school years. He also grew up watching "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour". "That was a weekly thing with our family," Yates said.
Yates would also eventually take bass lessons from Carol Kaye, who played with Sonny & Cher and who created the riff for "The Beat Goes On." "She taught me some of their songs," Yates said.
Kaye's contributions provided another benefit to Yates. "I had an appreciation of what it takes to create good music," he said. "I want to bring that to my performance."
Other priorities kept Yates from being in a band until recently. "I put it off until after my kids were grown," he said.
Yates and his wife raised their family in Escondido and moved to Fallbrook about five years ago.
Sweet had her own delays. She is originally from southeastern Wisconsin and moved from Oceanside to Vista in 1993.
"Music has been a part of my life," Sweet said. "I've always loved to do kind of theatrical stuff, stage productions."
Sweet also watched The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. "I could see how shy she was," Sweet said. "She would always look at Sonny. She wouldn't look at the camera."
The week before her high school graduation, Sweet was on a bicycle ride to raise money for the music program. After completing the actual course she rode her bicycle back to where her car was parked. In the process of avoiding a car, she hit a concrete building and her head was forced into the building. She incurred severe traumatic brain injury, and for the next 30 years she struggled with walking and talking.
"I never in a million years thought I would be here," Sweet said.
Her musical performance career had to wait until her recovery allowed her to sing and speak in public. "In 2019, I knew I was finally physically at a point where I could start music again," she said.
Yates was with a band called Chicken Wire when he met Sweet. "We hit it off right away," Yates said.
Sweet invited Yates to join her Cher tribute band. "I'm so blessed just to know him," Sweet said.
"He is so heart-centered and so solid," Sweet said of Yates. "Musically he is very proficient."
Yates accepted the offer. "I knew some of Cher's more popular songs," he said.
"I knew some of the most popular Cher, but I didn't know the rest," Yates said. "I knew about 10% and have learned the 90% and have been challenged."
Although not all of the songs are performed at a single concert, Cher'd can perform between 50 and 60 Cher songs. "I never realized how varied and how broad her catalog is," Yates said.
"It covers so many genres of music," Yates said. "It's a challenge. It's a great challenge and really rewarding to be able to pull it off."
Yates relied on his performance background. "When I'm on stage and I close my eyes, I envision being up there with Cher," he said.
Sweet understands the need to envision being the actual band performer. "To sing her songs is one thing but to be her, that was a whole other level," she said.
Yates joined Cher'd in 2020 shortly before the coronavirus outbreak curtailed performances for two years. Sweet notes that the concept to keep going and not give up has been a benefit for the musicians. "That's kind of what the heart of this band's all about," she said.
"To be actually performing them, it's really great to see it all come together," Yates said.
Yates also notes the pleasure of looking at the audience and seeing their emotions. "I have not ever had that in another group," he said.