Johnny Vallis has been impersonating rock and roll legends for nearly 30 years and he’s still aiming to get better.
“I definitely wasn’t born with what I use now, it’s been years of working at it, saying this is what I want to do,” said the Victoria singer.
Vallis was signed to play Buddy Holly with the Legends of Rock and Roll show in 1989, with whom he performed for over a decade in places like Australia, Malaysia, Puerto Rico and around North America. He said he stopped doing that show because his schedule was getting a bit too grueling (playing 66 shows in 2 months during one stint), it was time to focus on family, and he wanted to branch out on his own.
“I just didn’t want to run out the course and find that I was a one trick pony,” said Vallis.
Vallis has been doing his one-man show called Man of Many Voices for a number of years and will be bringing it to the Lighthouse Community Centre July 27. The show is a fundraiser for the Bowser Seniors Housing Society (BSHS), a group trying to raise money to help build affordable housing for seniors in the Bowser and Qualicum Bay area.
Vallis is originally from the Toronto area, and said he’s been interested in music since he first heard it as a child. He began singing Elvis songs when he was about nine years old with his guitar, and a couple of years later he performed at a local Mexican restaurant.
“[The owner] allowed me to sing three songs and that was how it all started.”
When Vallis was 13 he did Elvis impersonations at Expo 86 and that’s where he met another Elvis performer, Randy Friskie, who he would later work with in the Legends of Rock and Roll.
His greatest mentor was Frankie Laine, renowned American singer, songwriter and actor, who’s hits included the song Rawhide. Laine died a few years ago and would have been 100 this year. Vallis said Laine was extremely talented and he aspires to reach that level, although he doesn’t think he ever will. The two were friends for over twenty years and Vallis named his son, Layne after him.
“I miss him,” said Vallis, “there’s only a couple people I miss that bad.”
In Vallis’ Man of Many Voices show he impersonates Mick Jagger, members from The Traveling Wilburys, Louis Armstrong and Neil Young, among others. And instead of doing Elvis, he likes to impersonate other impersonators performing Elvis.
“Just saying, I’m going to do Elvis for you now, is redundant,” he said. “So what I do is I have fun exploring Elvis impersonators. It’s having fun with the character but adding something different.”
And although he stopped playing Buddy Holly a number of years ago, he has resurrected the character for a string of theatre and casino shows with RockitBoy and Summit Entertainment. The show includes Vallis as Buddy Holly with a band of 30-somethings playing vintage instruments and wearing fifties clothing. He’s taking that show to Penticton ’s Peachfest in August, among other locations.
Vallis has performed at the Lighthouse Community Centre before and likes the area, he said. It’s also nice the community is pulling together to raise money for a good cause, he added. Vallis loves the thrill of performing in front of a live audience, he said, and putting on a good, clean show.
“There’s so much going on in the news and so much going on in politics that when you come see me I’m going to make you laugh and remember the good times— and that’s my job.”
Tickets for the fundraiser are $30 available from the Salish Sea Market, Georgia Park Store and Mulberry Bush Bookstores. There will be a silent and live auction, a cash bar, and a barbecue with pulled pork, hamburgers and smokeys available.
BSHS is aiming to raise $200,000 by the end of the year. For more information visit www.bshs.ca.