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Waukegan native fronts Ivy Ford and the Cadillacs, a Lake County-based blues band.

Music connects with people in different ways, and when Ivy Ford’s mom put her on stage when she was 13, she knew it was where she was meant to be.

Now, the Waukegan native fronts Ivy Ford and the Cadillacs, a Lake County-based blues band. “It’s funny, my mom used to play a lot of blues on the radio when I was really little and I didn’t think much of it,” Ford says. “But I’m 22 now and blues just kind of happened for me.”

THE BAND’S ORIGINS While she still was developing her voice and discovering her musical interests, Ford was playing assorted gigs and open jams with random musicians. But almost two years ago, she stumbled upon an opportunity to be in a band of her own.

Ford was the last to join the five-piece group which, at the time, was looking for a singer. Quite a bit has changed since then, including switching to a trio and renaming the group Ivy Ford and the Cadillacs.

Ford headlines the group, while Willie Rauch contributes on bass and Tony Oncken takes the drums. However, Oncken is set to move out of town, so Ford has been rotating drummers as of late.

“I know from playing with so many different people that good playing — I don’t care how long you’ve been playing — has to come from a good place,” Ford says. “You can’t judge anyone and you have to be grateful for every opportunity you have to play in front of other people and with other people.”

FORD’S REPETOIRE Ford has more than just vocals to offer. The young blues star also can play the guitar, drums, bass and piano — and all were self-taught.

“I took piano lessons for about six months and learned the basics of it,” Ford says. “But as for voice, I like having the natural mojo and raw ‘organic-ness’ when I sing.”

Ford draws personal influence from Chicago-style blues, Delta blues and various jazz artists.

“I’m a huge Buddy Guy fan,” Ford says. “That’s my guy. I love whatever he does and listen to everything. I’m in awe.”

Her musical tastes carry over to her band’s repertoire.

“We mostly play Chicago-style blues, but we have a lot of tunes that are a little different from your regular shuffle,” Ford says. “We do some Marvin Gaye, some Bob Marley and we throw some other things into the mix.”

The trio also has a handful of original tunes that it performs.

Music is Ford’s life, and whenever she’s not playing with the Cadillacs, she picks up side gigs with other musicians.

She’s a regular with Chicago blues legend J.B. Ritchie, and has recently taken the stage alongside him at Buddy Guy’s Legends. She’s also opened for Eric Sardinas at Reggies in Chicago as well as several other local artists.

“I love playing,” Ford says. “I am going to be playing music whether I get paid for not. It’s not just music to me — it’s a social commentary and dialogue.”

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