By Luke Voogt
Jimmy Barnes impersonator Andy Baker has a secret weapon in the “demanding” vocal challenge of singing as ‘The Screamer’.
“I drink special herbal throat teas,” the 61-year-old told the Indy, ahead of his next show at Sphinx Hotel.
The long-time performer has a few other tactics when performing as Barnes, especially for weeks with multiple shows.
“For starters, I’m off the piss – that helps,” he said.
“I gave that up a few years ago – I probably should have earlier. Other than that it’s just rest and the usual things.”
Baker also belts out Barnes’ trademark growls and screams sparingly, saving them for the right moments.
“You just can’t do it (the whole show) – you’ll blow your voice out,” he said.
Baker has impersonated Barnesy for more than 20 years and met the music legend himself a few times, on a journey which began in a small-time metal band decades ago.
“This year I’m celebrating 40 years in the business,” he said.
He was still in the band when he saw Cold Chisel play in their early days.
“They blew my mind,” he said.
A cover band approached him to sing and Baker soon found himself enjoying the role.
“I thought this is alright – I’m actually making money out of it and having fun playing,” he said.
“In those days (in an original band) you’d be playing for booze or whatever you could get.”
He began singing as Barnes for a tribute act in 1989.
“At the time I had the Barnesy look – the curly hair, I was drinking bottles of whiskey and I was partying as hard as him,” he said.
“We both partied hard and it took its toll.
“If you ask Barnesy what his roots are, he’ll say John Fogarty, Paul Rogers and those kinds of blokes – I sort of have that style.”
Baker met Barnes when his tribute act did a Melbourne pub gig in the early ‘90s.
“The owner of the venue said, ‘I’ve got a surprise for you, someone’s coming in later’,” he said.
Barnes watched in the audience, unbeknown to Baker until they caught up for shots afterwards.
He jokingly “carried on about losing his job”, Baker said.
“He said he liked what I was doing.”
Baker will rock the Jimmy Barnes headband and dance moves when he sings for Khe Sanh Chisel Barnes Show at Sphinx Hotel on 2 February.
“I get the crowd going and all singing.”
But while “the Andy Baker voice” was very similar to Barnesy, he was no carbon copy, he said.
“I believe the original is always the best.”