Robben Ford

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Robben Ford
Ford in February 2007
Ford in February 2007
Background information
Birth nameRobben Lee Ford
Born (1951-12-16) December 16, 1951 (age 68)
Woodlake, California, U.S.
GenresBlues, jazz, fusion, rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Years active1969–present
Associated actsKISS, Miles Davis, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Yellowjackets, Chick Corea, Gregg Allman Band, L.A. Express

Robben Lee Ford (born December 16, 1951)[1] is an American blues, jazz, and rock guitarist.[2] He was a member of the L.A. Express and Yellowjackets, and has collaborated with Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, George Harrison, Larry Carlton, Rick Springfield, and Kiss. He was named one of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of the 20th Century" by Musician magazine.[3]

Early life[edit]

Robben Ford was born in Woodlake, California, United States,[1] and raised in Ukiah, California. He began playing the saxophone at age 10 and the guitar at age 14. Robben and his brothers created the Charles Ford Blues Band in honor of and named after their father.[4]


At age 18, Ford's band was hired to play with Charlie Musselwhite,[2] and recorded two albums The Charles Ford Band[1] and Discovering the Blues. He recorded two albums with Jimmy Witherspoon[5][citation needed] called Live and Spoonful. In the 1970s, Ford joined the jazz fusion band, L.A. Express,[2] led by saxophonist Tom Scott. In 1974, the band supported George Harrison on his American tour and played on the Joni Mitchell albums The Hissing of Summer Lawns and Miles of Aisles.[2]

Miles Davis & Robben Ford in Montreux in 1986

After leaving the L.A. Express in 1976, Robben Ford recorded his solo album, The Inside Story with a band that later became the Yellowjackets.[2]

In 1977, Ford was one of half a dozen or so session players asked to play the guitar solo for the Steely Dan song "Peg." In the end, the group went with the version by Jay Graydon instead. In 2006, a tribute album to Steely Dan – The Royal Dan – was released, with Ford covering "Peg" in his own style.

In 1982, Ford was one of several guitarists who appeared on the KISS album Creatures of the Night, playing lead guitar on the songs "Rock And Roll Hell" and "I Still Love You".

Ford worked briefly with Miles Davis in 1986;[2] and can be heard on Davis' Montreux box set. Ford released his album Talk to Your Daughter in 1988.[1] He joined Philippe Saisse, Marcus Miller and J.T. Lewis in the cast of The Sunday Night Band for the second and final season of the late-night NBC television program Sunday Night in 1989.[6] In the 1990s, he released the albums Robben Ford and the Blue Line and Tiger Walk.[1]

Robben Ford has received five Grammy Award nominations[7] and was named one of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of the 20th Century" by Musician magazine.[8] He credited pianist and arranger Roger Kellaway and saxophonist and arranger Tom Scott, whom he met while playing for Joni Mitchell, as a major influence on his musical development.[9]



Ford considers his first good electric a Guild Starfire III with a single florentine cutaway. He used a Gibson L-5 when he played with Charlie Musselwhite and the Ford Band, although he never thought it was a great guitar. While playing with Jimmy Witherspoon, Ford traded the L-5, plus $200, for a Super 400. When Ford began playing with the L.A. Express and Joni Mitchell, he used a 1958 Gibson dot-neck 335.

After Ford's Talk to Your Daughter album was released in 1988, Robben used a Robben Ford Signature model guitar created in a collaboration with Dan Smith of Fender and produced in Japan between 1987 and 1993. That guitar was based on the Fender Master Series Esprit Ultra that was produced from 1983 to 1986 in Japan. In 1987, new management at Fender authorized the first production of the Robben Ford Signature guitar. In 1994, production of the guitar moved from Japan to the Fender Custom Shop. Three models were produced: Ultra FM (with a carved maple top), Ultra SP (with a carved spruce top), and the Elite FM (with a carved flame maple top). The guitar line continued to be produced until 2002 when it was discontinued by Fender.

Sometimes he plays a vintage 1960 Fender Telecaster, Gibson Les Pauls,[10] or a 1963 Gibson SG.[11] Ford also owns other guitars including a 1966 Epiphone Riviera (with the original Bigsby tremolo removed and replaced with a stop tailpiece).

Ford's Dumble Overdrive Special

In a May 1–16, 2017 tour which ended in Niagara Falls NY, Ford debuted a newly acquired 1953 Gibson Les Paul.


Robben Ford uses Dumble Amplifiers and Celestion G12-65 speakers. In 1983, Alexander "Howard" Dumble made Robben's first Dumble Overdrive Special (serial #002) for Robben. Dumble himself is the owner of serial #001.[12]

When traveling abroad he prefers taking his Dumble, but will sometimes use Fender Super Reverb or Fender Twin amplifiers.[13]

Music Instruction[edit]

Robben Ford offers instructional video guitar lessons on TrueFire and is one of their leading educators. He has 14 interactive video guitar courses available. Each course contains video lessons, tab, notation, jam tracks, and more learning tools to learn how to play guitar like Robben Ford.

Personal life[edit]

Ford divorced from cabaret singer Anne Kerry Ford in 2019. He is the uncle of current Little Feat drummer Gabe Ford.


As leader[edit]

  • Discovering the Blues
  • Schizophonic (LA International, 1976)
  • Jimmy Witherspoon & Robben Ford Live (LAX, 1977)
  • The Inside Story (Elektra, 1979)
  • Standing on the Outside (Lakeside, 1983)
  • Talk to Your Daughter (Warner Bros., 1988)
  • Minor Elegance with Joe Diorio (MGI, 1989)
  • Live at the Notodden Blues Festival with Jimmy Witherspoon (Blue Rock'it, 1992)
  • Ain't Nothin' New About the Blues (AIM, 1995)
  • Discovering the Blues (Avenue, 1997)
  • Tiger Walk (Blue Thumb, 1997)
  • Sunrise (Avenue, 1999)
  • Supernatural (GRP/Blue Thumb, 1999)
  • A Tribute to Paul Butterfield (Blue Rock'it, 2001)
  • Blue Moon (Concord, 2002)
  • Playin' the Blues (Warner Bros., 2002)
  • Keep on Running (Concord, 2003)
  • Truth (Concord, 2007)
  • Soul on Ten (Concord, 2009)
  • Bringing It Back Home (Provogue, 2013)
  • Unplugged with Larry Carlton (335, 2013)
  • A Day in Nashville (Provogue, 2014)
  • Live at Rockpalast (Repertoire, 2014)
  • Into the Sun (Provogue, 2015)
  • Purple House (Ear Music, 2018)

As member[edit]

With the Blue Line

  • Robben Ford and the Blue Line (Stretch, 1992)
  • Mystic Mile (Stretch, 1993)
  • Handful of Blues (Blue Thumb, 1995)
  • The Authorized Bootleg (Blue Thumb, 1998)

With the Ford Blues Band

  • The Charles Ford Band (1972)
  • Reunion Live (1984)
  • As Real As It Gets (1996)
  • Hotshots (1994)
  • Fords and Friends (1996)
  • Ford Blues Band (1999)
  • A Tribute to Paul Butterfield (2001)
  • In Memory of Michael Bloomfield (2002)
  • Another Fine Day (2003)
  • Centre Stage (2004)

With Jing Chi

  • Jing Chi with Vinnie Colaiuta, Jimmy Haslip (2001)
  • Jing Chi Live (2003)
  • Jing Chi 3D (2004)

With the Yellowjackets


  • Standing on the Outside with the Kazu Matsui Project (1984)
  • Minor Elegance with Joe Diorio(1990)
  • Helium Tears, Charlie Haden (2006)
  • Live in Tokyo – Larry Carlton & Robben Ford (2007)
  • From the Reach, Sonny Landreth (2008)
  • Renegade Creation with Michael Landau, Jimmy Haslip, and Gary Novak (2010)
  • Unfinished Business, Michael McDonald (2013)
  • Unplugged – Larry Carlton & Robben Ford with Larry Carlton (2013)[14]
  • Plays Well with Others, Greg Koch (2013)


  • Dark Horse, George Harrison (1974)
  • Superman, Barbra Streisand (1977)
  • Working Class Dog, Rick Springfield (1981)
  • Night Watch, Ricky Peterson (1990)
  • Luck of the Draw, Bonnie Raitt (1991)
  • Lucky Man, Dave Koz (1993)
  • Souvenir, Ricky Peterson (1999)
  • Walk On, Roscoe Beck (2001)
  • In the Palace of the King, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers (2007)
  • Like It on Top, Ana Popović (2018)

As sideman[edit]

With Miles Davis

With Georgie Fame

  • Cool Cat Blues (1991)

With Ruthie Foster

  • The Truth According to Ruthie Foster (2009)

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Rickie Lee Jones

  • Pop Pop (1991)

With Kiss

With L.A. Express

  • L.A. Express (1976)

With Neil Larsen

  • Orbit (2007)

With Bob Malach

  • Mood Swing (1991)
  • The Searcher (1997)

With Joni Mitchell

With Charlie Musselwhite

With David Sanborn

  • Live at Montreux (1984)

With Tom Scott and the LA Express

  • Tom Cat (1974)


  • Robben Ford and the Blue Line: In Concert (Recorded April 7, 1993)
  • Robben Ford: New Morning - The Paris Concert (Recorded May, 2001)
  • Playing the Blues (2002)
  • The Blues and Beyond (2002)
  • Back to the Blues (2004)
  • Autour Du Blues: Larry Carlton and Robben Ford (2006)
  • The Robben Ford Clinic: The Art of Blues Rhythm (2007)
  • Robben Ford: In Concert: Revisited (2008)
  • The Robben Ford Clinic: The Art of Blues Solos (2009)
  • Robben Ford Trio: New Morning the Paris Concert: Revisited (2009)


  1. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 478. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Scott Yanow. "Robben Ford". AllMusic. Retrieved November 27, 2011.
  3. ^ "Robben Ford On Piano Jazz". May 3, 2013. Archived from the original on August 10, 2019. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
  4. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 110. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  5. ^ Bob Porter radio show December 8, 2012, on WBGO "Portraits in Blue"
  6. ^ Sunday Night – episode #121 (1989), Broadway Video, Inc.
  7. ^ Karen Lindell (January 31, 2008). "Ojai's Robben Ford doesn't mince words, or licks, on his Grammy-nominated blues CD". VC-Star. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  8. ^ [1] Archived October 26, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Robben Ford Guitar Lesson". Blues Revolution, True Fire. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  10. ^ "Robben Ford". Vintage Guitar® magazine. Retrieved January 7, 2015.
  11. ^ "Robben Ford Gets Lean and Clean". Guitar Player Magazine® magazine. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  12. ^ "Rig Rundown: Robben Ford". Premier Guitar® magazine. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
  13. ^ "10 Things We Learned from Robben Ford". Premier Guitar® magazine. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
  14. ^ "Larry Carlton and Robben Ford : Unplugged Review". Guitarhoo!. March 31, 2013. Retrieved December 31, 2014.

External links[edit]