Rock pioneer Lita Ford to shred at Naperville's Last Fling

  • Rock pioneer Lita Ford brings her heavy guitar music and raspy vocals to Naperville's Last Fling on Friday night.

    Rock pioneer Lita Ford brings her heavy guitar music and raspy vocals to Naperville's Last Fling on Friday night. Courtesy of Lita Ford

 
 
Updated 9/1/2015 2:56 PM

Whether you're into metal music or not, you've got to admit Lita Ford is cool.

A rock 'n' roll pioneer, Ford started her music career at just 16 years old playing guitar in 1975 for The Runaways, an all-female group that broke down barriers in the punk era.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

After the band broke up in 1979, Ford embarked on a solo career that churned out heavy guitar music and her signature raspy vocals -- all at a time when women served as little more than eye candy in videos for so-called "hair bands" such as Motley Crue and Poison.

Ford hit mainstream success in the late '80s with hits like "Kiss Me Deadly," "Shot of Poison" and "Close My Eyes Forever," a duet with Ozzy Osbourne.

Now, she is coming to Naperville's Last Fling on Friday with Jack Russell's Great White and Bon Jovi tribute band Bad Medicine, creating an entire retro-'80s rock lineup.

Russell's band will perform hits by his original group Great White, which he co-founded in 1982, including songs like "Once Bitten, Twice Shy."

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But before Ford and the rest of the Last Fling lineup rock your world, the Daily Herald spoke with her to learn what it's like being a rock goddess whose riffs still resonate with music lovers today. (In fact, last year Gibson guitars named Ford No. 2 on its list of Top 10 Female Guitarist of all time -- right below her former Runaways bandmate, Joan Jett.)

This is an edited version of that conversation:

Q. Your current tour is taking you all over the country, as well as sharing the stage with artists who have an '80s sound like Great White, Warrant, Kip Winger and Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider. But you also have shows with groups like Korn, Faith No More and Slipknot, which have a distinctly heavier, darker sound from the '90s. Do you adjust your set list to fit the bill?

A. No, because our set is pretty (gutsy) anyway. So we don't adjust our music and, instead, I just go out there and be myself.

Q. You released "Living Like a Runaway" in 2012, returning to your signature sound and departing from your previous Nu Metal experimentation on some prior releases. What kind of feedback did you get from fans?

A. The fans knew it was a true Lita sound and "Living Like A Runaway" was very well accepted. I didn't try to copy anyone current and didn't even listen to anyone current at the time. I just let the music for that album flow naturally. It's my favorite album so far, even though it didn't sell as much as some previous albums. But the emotions on it can't be beat!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Q. Fans at shows like the Last Fling in Naperville undoubtedly can't wait to hear your biggest hits like "Kiss Me Deadly." Are those songs still as fun for you as they are for your fans?

A. With Bobby Rock on drums, Patrick Kennison on guitar and vocals, and Marty O'Brien on bass and vocals, all on stage with me, it's an awesome time no matter what song we play. I'm loving it no matter the song.

Q. There are so few successful women in rock. Why do you think that is? What inspired you to pick up a guitar at age 11?

A. I simply wanted to play guitar and my ability was a gift from God, I guess. It came so naturally to me, whereas singing did not. I had to teach myself to sing. But I never once sat around and thought to myself "Wait, girls aren't supposed to do this." It never entered my mind. I just played guitar because I loved it and my parents were huge supporters of rock 'n' roll. They would often ask me to play for them.

Q. You and Cherie Currie recorded a holiday single, "Rock This Christmas," about two years ago, and it says online that the effort supported Toys for Tots. How was it reuniting with your former bandmate from the start of your career? Also, do you have a connection to Toys for Tots or a particular reason for supporting that charity?

A. The song did not initially support Toys for Tots, although what a great idea! The song comes out every year, so you've just given me an idea for Christmas 2015.

Cherie and I had a blast singing in the studio together. We were giggling and were in awe of each other -- we couldn't believe we were really together. Cherie and I never really got along in The Runaways because we are just two different kinds of people and we didn't jell when we were younger. But now after all these years, we could relate to each other as divorced women with children. We now have something in common.

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