Rock’n’roll and the stage is something Johnny Vallis has always had an affinity for.
He had his first big gig was when he was 11 years old as an Elvis impersonator. Back then he was blond, tall and thin, didn’t look too much like Elvis, but dug the music. Another Elvis impersonator suggested Vallis impersonate Buddy Holly because of his uncanny resemblance.
Vallis did some research on Holly and found his music to be so creative, and that there was overlap from Holly to bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, who idolized Holly, he said.
Vallis and his friend started to try out some Holly tunes, Vallis singing and on guitar, his friend on the drums. They were playing at a diner in Victoria when Vallis was discovered by a musician who was a guest at the restaurant who then got in touch with the promoter of Legends of Rock’n’Roll and they brought Vallis over to Vancouver for a photo shoot.
Vallis first joined the Legends when he was 16 years old and has now rejoined them for a tour.
Over the years, Vallis has traveled the world touring with the with Legends – his favourite an Australia 66-date tour – Puerto Rico, and has played for the King and Queen of Malaysia. The highlight of his career was working on tour with Veronica Bennett of the Ronettes.
“She was great to work with, a really nice lady,” he said. “She’s the “bad girl” of rock’n’roll, but truthfully, she’s a sweetheart.”
Through touring, Vallis has met people who worked in the same studio as Holly, like Sunny West who wrote “Oh, Boy!” and “Rave On”. He met Buddy Knox, who told him to take his glasses off, because Vallis looked too much like Holly, he said.
Vallis said meeting people who knew Holly helped him get to know the man he lives on stage, and having great respect for the artist helps him portray Holly honestly and authentically.
He is sensitive to Holly’s story, who passed away at just 22 years old, when “he was at the height of his popularity. It was rock’n’roll’s first tragedy, ” Vallis said. “Holly was only around for 18 months and is equal billing to these people [Roy Orbison and Elvis].”
The most enjoyable part of his job is bringing fond memories to people who remember Holly’s music and creating an escape that brings joy, Vallis said. The Legends of Rock’n’Roll tour features artists that have all passed away, so that is the illusion part of the show, he said, being able to present something to the public they couldn’t otherwise have.
There is no performer in Vallis’ immediate bloodline, but he thinks his grandmother would have liked to be on the stage.
As his day job, Vallis performs as the ‘Man of Many Voices’ where he impersonates the likes of Mick Jagger and John Lennon. Vallis said he would like to try Mick Jagger for a Legends tour one day.
The Legends of Rock’n’Roll at Elements Casino Victoria features the trifecta of Roy Orbison played by Larry Branson, Elvis played by Ben Klein and Holly played by Vallis. The concert dates are May 11 and 12. People can purchase tickets in person at the casino, by phone at 1-855-985-5000 or online bit.ly/2HX196k.