- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) - It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll, or so AC/DC’s Bon Scott said.

But Bon Scott is dead.

And Janesville resident Nathan Thomas was climbing the hard rock staircase in the unlikeliest of getups: He was the dancing Statue of Liberty who duck-walks and struts back and forth along a 200-foot sidewalk on the east side of Milton Avenue in Janesville.

Since January, he has been plying the scene along Janesville’s retail row, belting out “Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap” at the top of his quite capable lungs, The Janesville Gazette (https://bit.ly/1SdtaWO ) reported.

Thomas sounded fit to explode like Lady Liberty’s torch. Or TNT.

He carried a sign that reads, “THIS YEAR, CHOOSE LIBERTY.” It was part of his part-time gig as a seasonal, costumed advertising waver_just one of a bevy of dancing, curbside entertainers Liberty Tax Service employs every tax season at its tax accounting office at 1250 Milton Ave.

Thomas’ main duty as a waver for Liberty Tax: to gyrate and wave at passing cars to entice people to go into Liberty Tax and get their tax filings handled by one of the company’s accountants.

The accountants’ work is a quiet, plaintive affair.

But along Milton Avenue-when Thomas is out there-it’s a different story.

Few in Janesville may know Thomas. The Elkhorn native just moved to Janesville. He’s unassuming with a medium build and reddish hair. The night-shift UPS worker has a round, pleasant face.

But if you close your eyes, Thomas’s blistering, raw singing voice is like a rusty straight razor that seems to slash a hole 35 years into the past, back to the days when his ultimate rock and roll hero, Bon Scott, was still alive.

Thomas’s singing voice sounds eerily like Bon Scott, the demon-voiced and nearly inimitable original lead singer of the Australian rock megaband AC/DC.

Scott died in 1980, leaving a legacy of hard living, hard drinking and songs that told the tale.

Thomas, 38, has only sang for about three years, but he’s loved Bon Scott and AC/DC since he was 4 years old.

This winter, Thomas turned all his two-hour Liberty Tax shifts—11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.—into vocal-performance practice jam of early AC/DC hits. Thomas turns his iPod to Bon Scott shuffle, cranks his earphones to 10, and turns the volume of his voice to 11.

In the pantheon of guys who dress up like the Statue of Liberty and shake their stuff on the sidewalk along Milton Avenue, nobody’s ever done it quite like Thomas, said Barbara Bartlett, who owns the Liberty Tax offices on Milton Avenue and Court Street.

“We’ve had gyrators, clowns and other characters. But we’ve never had a singer,” Bartlett said.

Thomas’ wife, Wendy, late last year saw an ad for auditions to be a Liberty Tax waver. It was one of those shreds of destiny that one finds pinned to a Laundromat bulletin board, Thomas said.

Thomas one day tried to shovel a half-foot of sleet and snow off the sidewalk outside Liberty Tax so he wouldn’t miss putting on one of his clinics of waving, flailing and wailing, Bartlett said.

“I had to beg him to talk him out of dancing around in that kind of nasty weather,” Bartlett said. “He’s pretty dedicated.”

Thomas auditioned with Bartlett and made it in as a 2016 tax season waver without singing a note.

“I was pretty nervous. I had a bad cold, and I just didn’t feel confident at that point,” he said.

Thomas is an actual singer, although he’s never yet truly taken the stage. He is in a local cover band, BonFyre. The band plays all AC/DC, all the time.

Thomas says the band has had a bad run of guitarists taking a powder just as it’s ready to catch fire. But Thomas said he wants to get the band back rolling hard again. This time, maybe for real.

“This Liberty Tax job has been the greatest thing for me. It’s got my confidence back. I’m ready to go again,” he said.

About two weeks ago, Thomas fought through heavy rumbling road construction, playing his Liberty Tax sign like an air guitar god. He banged his head and shook his fist as if to punish the traffic and the raw, late-morning wind that howled 50 mph gusts, blowing road construction sand and grit into his eyes and throat.

For two hours, Thomas sang in a gown and foam Lady Liberty crown. The rough weather was no match for his throat of steel, razor wire and shattered glass.

“You just can’t let up,” Thomas said. “You dig down, and you power through. Until there is no more,” he said.

Then, he went inside Liberty tax, shrugged off his costume, and hung it on a peg in the back. Bartlett approached him. She tried to convince him to accept a week’s extension to his waving and singing contract.

Thomas smiled.

“I don’t know. I guess I can make it work,” he said.

As he and Bartlett hashed out some minor details, the howling wind outside pried open the tax office’s glass and metal front door and nearly wrenched it from the frame. As accountants dove to catch the door, it flung open wide toward the parking lot and snapped the hinges.

There was a squealing and scraping of wrecked metal.

Something, or maybe someone, had flung the stage door wide open for Thomas. Encore time?

He walked out to his boxy, very non-AC/DC Kia and hopped in. He smiled thinly, dropped his vehicle in gear, and rode on.

Bon Scott’s dead. Or maybe not.


Information from: The Janesville Gazette, https://www.gazetteextra.com

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