Latin music made a huge impact on a teenage Sally Ford, setting her on a journey that has led to her becoming not only the lead vocalist, flute and saxophone player for the electro-cumbia, funky reggae and boogaloo band Dr Hernández, but the composer of the majority of the band’s Spanish songs.

‘That music and language had a profound effect on me. I spent a year travelling in Latin America in my 20s, on what was called the Gringo trail, so I think I was quite impacted by it. I grew up in Geelong, so it was pretty exciting!’

Sally Ford

Sally had only been playing saxophone for three weeks when she first took to the stage as a member of an all-girl punk/pop group before moving on to work with bands including Joe Camilleri's Black Sorrows, Paul Kelly's High Rise Bombers and The Kevins.

She met her partner, musician and producer Patrick Cronin, 30 years ago and the creative couple formed a number of Latin bands: Gringo Stars, Texicali Rose, and Sally Ford and the Pachuco Playboys, before Dr Hernández. 

‘There's something intrinsic in Latin music that people connect to. It goes to the heart and the feet,’ Sally says. 

Along with Dr Hernández’s other band members Michael Havir, David Joseph, Cathy McQuade and Peter Slipper, Sally and Patrick are also part of the ARIA-winning Melbourne Ska Orchestra.

‘We’re all very experienced at different styles of music; there's people who've played Afrobeat and other African styles, a lot of Latin, ska, reggae and funk so our backgrounds are quite diverse,’ Sally says.

This is Dr Hernández’s first performance for the Victorian Seniors Festival.

‘I'm really glad that I'm still playing, writing songs, recording albums and touring as I turn 70,’ Sally says. ‘There’s something about continuing to be creative that gives you energy.’ 

Watch Dr Hernández's 2020 Victorian Seniors Festival reimagined performance.