You know that it would be untrue, you know that I would be a liar, if I was to say to you … there’s a better Jim Morrison impersonator out there than Phil Barone.
By day, the Toledo native and owner of Rosie’s Italian Grille and two Rosie’s Rolling Chef food trucks, serves some of the area’s finest European cuisine. But on certain nights of the year–and usually for charity–the mild-mannered Barone slips into a pair of skintight leather pants, teases a black cowlicked wig, and conjures up the spirit of the late, great Jim Morrison, the iconic frontman of ‘60s band The Doors.
Supported by a backing band featuring some of Toledo’s finest musicians,he’s not impersonating Morrison so much as channeling his ghost. One listen to Barone’s eerily Morrison-like otherworldly howl on “Roadhouse Blues” or “Touch Me” will dissuade any non-believer.
We talked to the neo-Lizard King to learn what it’s like to play Morrisson… and where he gets those amazing leather pants.
So I’ve seen your show and, as a Doors fan, I can tell you, you’ve got it down, baby.
Oh, thank you so much. It’s always a real thrill when people say that.. I’ve studied him through film and the music, of course, and I really enjoy it. When I graduated from college, I used to live with some buddies at this old farmhouse and we had these hellacious Halloween parties with a band; it was basically half-karaoke, half-live. I would sing, and it worked really good with The Doors. I would sing with The Doors and people really liked it. My friend Gino Demilio, who played in The Maxx Band, used to tell me, “Phil, you gotta come out to Put-In-Bay and do your Jim (Morrison). Finally, I got out my leather pants, my boots, my wig, and my sunglasses and went out there and did my thing. So these guys learned to play The Doors songs live. That went on for 13 years. We were the house band at Crescent Tavern. I used to climb on top of the bar and sing “L.A. Woman” and the bartender always told me, “Jim, you’re the only person I’d ever let on top of that bar.” That was a nice compliment.
How long will the show last?
About two hours. My brother Mikey “Blue” Barone, who’s the harmonica player, is an excellent musician and he’s gonna do some of his music. And my other band, Phil Barone and the Cruisers, we’re gonna do some Springsteen in the first set. Jim will finish the show with a good hour set. So it’s gonna be a great night of music. The other members of the Cruisers really bring it home; they’re just incredible musicians—–– that’s Pat McDonagh on lead guitar, Zane Baylon on keyboards, Pete Robinson on drums, and Andrew Astruve on bass.
Where do you get the pants and belt for your wardrobe? They don’t exactly sell those off the rack at department stores
No, man, you’re right. I got some of the pants off the Internet but for this show, I’m having a pair made. My other ones were getting old and worn. But leather pants are key for doing Jim. And the boots and the belt. I found a great Jim Morrison belt online that cost a couple paychecks. But it’s always important to me to have the look as close as possible. I even went to a bead shop to have a necklace made identical to the one Jim used to wear. I’ve worked really hard on the vocals this year to get them just right. I want people to be able to shut their eyes and see Jim and just have a great time.
“Jim Morrison: A Tribute” , Saturday, December 22 at the Maumee Indoor Theater, 601 Conant Street.
Tickets: $45 VIP (includes drink ticket),
$25 Doors (no pun intended) at 7 p.m.
Food and drinks available. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets available at Rosie’s Italian Grille, Unruly Arts, and at the venue. All proceeds benefit Unruly Arts. For more information, call 419-897-8901.