A meeting or a physical connection wasn't necessary for the life of legendary rock icon Jim Morrison to affect Tony Fernandez - both helping and hurting his career and professional life.
Fernandez was just 11 years old when he first heard the music of Jim Morrison and The Doors, specifically the song "The End," which he related to growing up with an abusive father.
"I never looked at authority the same way after hearing 'The End,'" Fernandez said. "It completely changed my life immediately, and I remember it to this day."
Tony Fernandez and his band, Peace Frog, a tribute to The Doors, will play at this Saturday’s Alive @ 5 event at the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum.
From becoming a Doors fan to going on to be a musician himself, Fernandez is now credited as founder and frontman for California-based band Peace Frog, the Tony Fernandez Tribute to The Doors. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, the band will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum as part of their Alive @ 5 concert series.
Peace Frog played for the first time in Pennsylvania in February at the Arcadia Theater in Windber, and Fernandez said he's looking forward to a similar experience in Altoona.
"That show went over exceptionally well," he said. "It was one of those concerts, on a scale of one to 10, it was a 10. People were into it. We got a great response from the people of Pennsylvania."
It was a meaningful response for Fernandez, who had been battling alcoholism and was still having trouble getting into the character of Jim Morrison - known for his own alcoholism and drug use - without drinking.
"I had been doing the show for about two to three months sober. It was that show in Windber that I finally realized that I don't need alcohol to portray Jim Morrison because [the audience] was so turned on by the show that it finally gave me the confidence that I needed, that I still carry with me," Fernandez said.
With his new outlook, Fernandez is excited to continue to bring the music of The Doors to multiple generations of fans. To date, Peace Frog has performed in 26 states and 14 countries.
"It's a great honor to do this because The Doors' music means so much to me, and the greatest thing about it is I get to meet Doors fans from every part of the world," Fernandez said.
Peace Frog plays songs like "Hello, I Love You" and "Touch Me" similarly to how they were originally recorded, but Fernandez said for songs like "The End" and "L.A. Woman," the band enjoys putting its own spin on the music.
"It's kind of like a modern Doors. ... If Robby Kreiger had the technology back then to use what's available now, I'm sure he would've expanded a lot more on the improvisational songs," Fernandez said.
Peace Frog has had the chance to play with Kreiger, The Door's original guitarist, as well as original keyboardist Ray Manzerak.
The band has also been playing every Sunday at the Venice Beach Cafe - a hang out for the members of The Doors in the 1960s - for the past eight years.
Fernandez said the age range of the audience at a Peace Frog show can be anywhere from age 16 to 75. Because of the iconic status of Jim Morrison and the intelligence of his music, Fernandez added that every year, new people are being turned on to The Doors.
"What Jim Morrison and The Doors specialized in is making you think. ... I guarantee there's someone right now who is 17 years old and listening to The Doors for the first time and getting their mind blown," Fernandez said.
Sherry McCarthy, director of marketing for the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum, said she believes there are a lot of Doors fans in the area, and that tickets have been selling well since the show was announced.
"We got a lot of positive feedback on Facebook, as well as when people call in for tickets," she said. "A lot of Doors fans out there are excited to see the show."
McCarthy thinks it's cool that Peace Frog puts its own spin on some of the music of The Doors, but encourages people to check out the band's videos online if they're unsure whether or not they'll be getting an authentic experience on Saturday.
"[Fernandez] not only sounds like [Jim Morrison], but also has the look," she said.
Fernandez said anyone from diehard fans to anyone slightly curious about The Doors should come out to the show.
"If you want to stay home and just watch Doors DVDs or listen to doors music on your computer, be my guest," he said. "But if you want to have a great time with other Doors fans and listen to great music done properly by a band that's been doing it for 15 years ... celebrate with us because that's what we're doing. We're celebrating The Doors."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.