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Published: Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST
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(Photo provided)
Toronzo Cannon

Toronzo Cannon drives a bus in Chicago during the week and spends his weekends and vacations playing the Blues.

He’s toured Latvia in northern Europe, Mexico, South Africa and France, along with playing some of Chicago’s greatest blues venues.

He’s been doing it for nearly 13 years.

“I’m just doing my part to keep the genre alive,” he said.

At age 28, Aly Jados is about to release her first EP after auditioning for the reality television shows “American Idol” and “The Voice.”

Also living in Chicago, the powerful singer/songwriter is determined to make a career of her music.

“Just to know that there is something there that’s valuable in my voice, it kind of validates what I’ve been doing my whole life,” she said.

The two are among eight acts slated to take the stage during the three-day McHenry Rotary Blues, Brews and BBQs festival. 

Only in its second year, the event takes place Aug. 2-4 at Petersen Park in McHenry, and includes a barbecue cook-off, volleyball tournament and 5K run, along with the music.

The artists all have their own stories, their own dreams. But they share a general love of music, and along with the organizers of the festival, a desire to bring that music to people.

“My regular job is a hum drum, working with the public job,” Cannon said. “This is where I let out all my energy.”

At age 45, considered “young” when it comes to the Blues, Cannon said, he grew up listening to soulful legends, such as Junior Wells, Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. The music inspired him to play in Chicago’s blues clubs and eventually form his own band, The Cannonball Express.

He’s slated to a release his second CD soon with Delmark Records.

“Blues has peeks and valleys, and there was a low time in the late-’70s. Stevie Ray [Vaughan] brought it back to a certain point,” he said. “We’re going to do our thing if the market is for it or not I imagine. We’re going to find some place to play.”

For Jados, her latest music is taking “more of an electric direction, heavy rock with an electric infusion,” she said.

She grew up in Lake Zurich influenced by her father’s Beatles records and putting on shows with her sister. She started her first band at age 16, her tastes leaning toward the “punk rock and metal bands” she enjoyed. 

“I prefer a rough edge to anything I do. To me, imperfection is perfection,” she said. 

On “American Idol” in 2011, she earned a golden ticket to Hollywood before being sent home. The next year on “The Voice,” she failed to turn any chairs in her audition and unfortunately did not advance. 

“It was a great experience, both of them, especially a learning experience for me,” she said.

With numerous sponsors, vendors and volunteers, the McHenry festival raises money for donations given by the Rotary Club to nonprofit groups and scholarships throughout the year, event Co-Chair Kathy Pelz said. 

The addition of a new Sunset 5K run, slated for 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, at Petersen Park, represents a collaboration between the club and area high school students, who designed the graphics and logo for the runners’ T-shirts. 

“The kids are sort of benefitting their own future,” Pelz said. “They’re growing an event that is going to allow them a bigger pool of scholarship money to go after.”

As for the music, she said, “We try to have a little bit of local talent, and we try to bring in some other headline names people will enjoy hearing.”

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