The Crown Kings

The Crown Kings

The North Phoenix band reigns over the cover act scene

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

As a cover band frontman, Casey Killian sometimes feels like a second-class citizen or a minor league baseball team.

But Phoenix has welcomed his band, The Crown Kings, for more than a decade, making it one of the most successful cover acts in the Valley.

“Phoenix has been good to us,” Killian says. “We never say ‘fans.’ We call them ‘friends.’ I feel we have so many friends here who support us and come out to the shows. They’ve opened the door for us to support Bret Michaels, Stone Temple Pilots and the Blue Collar comedians. It makes it all worthwhile.”

The Crown Kings are playing in their backyard Wednesday, October 16, and Thursday, October 17, when The Taste of Cave Creek returns. On Saturday, October 19, they’ll perform as part of the Scottsdale Quarter Fall Concert Series from 5 to 7 p.m. The show is free.

“I like the bigger festivals like The Taste of Cave Creek,” he says. “It’s family oriented, which is always nice. It’s not like playing Harold’s on a Saturday night. I get to watch little kids enjoying the music. I get to touch the community in a different way that’s opposite to being in a club or bar.

“It’s low pressure, too. They’re not expecting us to bring people in like a club or bar. The people who organize it are really efficient. They want to make sure everything’s good for the event.”

New to Phoenix

Killian founded The Crown Kings after moving to the Valley in the early 1990s.

“I was doing my own acoustic shows and original music until I realized how hard it is to make gas money by doing your own songs,” he says. “I’d mix in a few covers. We now have two CDs worth of original material.”

At first, Killeen admits, it was a hard pill to swallow.

“You’d love to get your original music out there,” he says. “The way the industry is now, it’s a tough industry for original musicians. You have a day job and then we do this at night. It’s tiring, but it’s fun and you can make money off it.”

The Crown Kings has a stable of songs like “Sweet Home Alabama,” “All Right Now” by Free; and Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me.” His favorite song to perform, however, is “Simple Man.”

“Aside from our original music that we still add to our sets, I would say ‘Simple Man’” because it seems to mean so much to people,” he says.

“We get requests to play it as a dedication to lost loved ones pretty consistently. As a band, it’s meaningful because we performed the song at our dear friend Keith Campbell’s funeral. It’s powerful. That’s my favorite.”

Killeen grew up in Billings, Montana, and graduated from Billings Senior High School. He moved to San Diego to join the U.S. Marine Corps and to look for this new opportunity.

“I was really looking for opportunities out there,” he says. After the U.S. Marines, he wanted to find a day job, so he could pursue music at night. That proved to be difficult and his friend talked him into moving to Phoenix to work as a respiratory therapist. That was short-lived.

The Crown Kings—which now also includes drummer Jimi Taft of Waddell, bassist Jason Williams of Phoenix and guitarists Jason Ingram of Phoenix, and Jason Borders of Tempe—are now gigging around the Valley with their brand of music. They’ve been a favorite of Harold’s Cave Creek Corral for about 15 years.

“Those ’70s songs will never go away,” Killian says. “We play everything from that to ‘bro-country’ songs. We play whatever will get people dancing. We want to create a party atmosphere.”

Connecting with his “friends” is important Killian.

“When we’re really busy and we’re balancing our careers and everything and I think I can’t do this another night, I get two weeks off and when I get on stage again, there’s something about five guys on stage collaborating to make on form of art. You don’t get that in a day job.

“It’s hard to get that out of your blood. I play with four other guys who are my best friends. They’re truly my best friends and I get to see them every weekend. It’s like going to happy hour with the gang.” ν

The Taste of Cave Creek

5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, October 16, and Thursday, October 17

Stagecoach Village, 7100 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek

$10 at the gate; food and drink tickets are $1