Most modern “grlz” may not even realize that one of the 20th Century’s earliest and most successful women’s rights advocates was “Rosie the Riveter”— a marketing icon that was used to promote the strength of the female work force during World War II. But, from the image of Rosie and factory worker’s famous “We Can Do It!” slogan that adorns her drums to the power, intensity and excitement of her drumming, it’s clear that sixteen-year old Hannah Ford not only remembers the original “Girl Power” message, she’s determined to take it to a whole new level.
Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Hannah Ford's first experience with drumming was in the third grade when her elementary school teacher, Diane Downs, began adding music to the classroom curriculum. Hannah immediately fell in love with the drums and they became her passion. In addition to English, math, science and social studies, Hannah learned drumset, hand percussion and keyboard percussion as a member of the precocious, extra-curricular drumming group that became known throughout the world as the Fabulous Leopard Percussionists of Louisville.
Santa Claus reportedly delivered Hannah’s first drumset around the time she was 8 and, as a Leopard, the youngster was able to study and perform with major drum artists such as Louis Bellson (jazz legend), Ruben Alvarez (Eddie Palmieri, Anita Baker, The Commodores), Jerry Steinholtz (Diana Ross, Lee Ritenour, The Carpenters) and Ndugu Chancler (Santana, Michael Jackson, Herbie Hancock) as they came through Louisville on tour.
After moving to Chicago with her family when she was 12, Hannah Ford continued to play and learn about the drums. Her positive attitude, hard work and determination paid off. Hannah won the 2006 Louis Bellson Drum Competition (first girl ever to enter and first ever to win), was named an outstanding musician at the 2006 New Trier Jazz Festival and received high score in the 10th annual “Chicago Heat Strokes” drum contest. In 2007 Hannah once again was recognized as an “Outstanding Jazz Musician” at the Jazz in the Meadows Jazz Festival held in Chicago and was recently awarded a scholarship to attend the summer Percussion Festival at the Berklee School of Music in Boston.
The teen currently attends Lake Zurich High School and is studying with internationally-renowned drum artist, Northwestern University faculty member, Grammy-winner and former drummer of the Pat Metheny band, Paul Wertico as well as Chicago-area freelance percussionist and mallet specialist, Joe Sonnefeldt.
Over the past few years Hannah Ford’s performed at clubs, parties and events in the Chicago area with the critically-acclaimed local fan-favorite, “Universal Slim and the Blues Kangaroos” while her current performance projects include “The Hannah Ford Band” and her one-woman “Peace, Love & Drums” multi-media show. Hannah also appeared along with world-class drummers Peter Erskine, Stanton Moore and Johnny Rabb as a featured guest artist at the 2007 Chicago Vintage and Custom drum show.
Hannah Ford admits to liking a wide variety of music— jazz, rock, pop, country, R&B, Latin and metal, to name just a few— and her favorite drummers range from legends such as Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson and John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) to contemporary players like Neil Peart (Rush), Steve Smith (Journey, Vital Information) and Vinnie Colaiuta (studio king) as well as relative newcomers Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), John Blackwell (Prince) and Jason Bittner (Shadows Fall).
While it used to be that telling someone they hit like a girl was a put-down, Hannah Ford is part of a new generation of strong, young, confident women drummers who have turned the insult into a compliment. After all, with solid female players like Karen Carpenter (The Carpenters), Gina Schock (The Go-Go’s), Sheila E (solo artist), Cindy Blackman (Lenny Kravitz) and others as role models, what’s more empowering for a girl than playing kick-ass drums in a rock ‘n’ roll band? Indeed, no one would ever make the mistake of describing Hannah as a lightweight after seeing her assault her drumset.
As for the future, although she’s not sure exactly what she wants to be when she grows up, Hannah Ford says she intends to go to college, study music and become a professional drummer.
“A husband, a house in the suburbs, 2.5 kids and a dog; that was my grandmother’s dream, not mine,” the exuberant teen says. “Like they say, we’ve come a long way because today we have so many options. And, whatever comes along, I know ‘We Can Do It’!”
Hannah was on a Guitar Center clinic tour conducting master classes when she heard from Prince's representatives that he had discovered her via videos on YouTube and wanted her to come to Paisley Park Studios to jam. Joining Prince's New Power Generation band in the summer of 2012, Welton made her national television debut with the ensemble on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in October, performing “Rock N’ Roll Love Affair”.
In November of 2012, after receiving direction from Prince, Hannah Ford and her husband Joshua Welton set out to find the best female guitarist in the world. Shortly thereafter, they discovered Donna Grantis and invited her to jam. The musical camaraderie between PRINCE, Welton, Nielsen and Grantis was undeniable, which led to the birth of 3RDEYEGIRL.
Hannah Welton performed in their critically acclaimed tour in the Spring of 2013 and is currently working with the band on their upcoming debut album tentatively titled Plectrum Electrum. 3RDYEGIRL appeared earlier in 2013 on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” performing the new song “Screwdriver” and the classic early Prince song “Bambi.”