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 70)
Woodlake, California, U.S.
GenresBlues, jazz, fusion, rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Years active1969–present

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, Little Feat 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 two of his brothers (Patrick and Mark) created the Charles Ford Blues Band in honor of and named after their father.[4] A fourth brother died in the Vietnam conflict.


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] 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 first 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 second solo 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, Mystic Mile, Handful of Blues, Tiger Walk and Supernatural.[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]

Robben Ford was married to Anne Kerry Ford. As of 2022 he lives in Paris, France.[10]



Ford considers his first good electric a Guild Starfire III with a single Florentine (sharp) 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 1964 Gibson Super 400CES (which he sold in 1986). When Ford began playing with the L.A. Express and Joni Mitchell, he used a 1958 Gibson dot-neck ES-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,[11] or a 1963 Gibson SG.[12] 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.[13]

When traveling abroad he prefers taking his Dumble, but will sometimes use Fender Super Reverb or Fender Twin amplifiers.[14] More recently Robben has been using Little Walter amplifiers at home and in the studio.


As leader[edit]

  • Schizophonic (LA International, 1976)
  • Live Jimmy Witherspoon & Robben Ford (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)
  • Robben Ford & the Blue Line (Stretch, 1992)
  • Live at the Notodden Blues Festival with Jimmy Witherspoon (Blue Rock'it, 1992)
  • Mystic Mile (Stretch, 1993)
  • Handful of Blues (Stretch, 1995)
  • Ain't Nothin' New About the Blues with Jimmy Witherspoon (AIM, 1995)
  • Blues Connotation (ITM, 1997)
  • The Authorized Bootleg (Blue Thumb, 1997)
  • Discovering the Blues (Avenue, 1997)
  • Tiger Walk (Blue Thumb, 1997)
  • Sunrise (Avenue, 1999)
  • Supernatural (GRP, 1999)
  • A Tribute to Paul Butterfield (Blue Rock'it, 2001)
  • Blue Moon (Concord, 2002)
  • Keep On Running (Concord, 2003)
  • Truth (Concord, 2007)
  • Soul on Ten (Concord, 2009)
  • Bullet with Renegade Creation (Blues Bureau, 2012)
  • Bringing It Back Home (Provogue, 2013)
  • A Day in Nashville (Provogue, 2014)
  • Into the Sun (Provogue, 2015)
  • Purple House (Ear Music, 2018)
  • The Sun Room (Ear Music, 2019)
  • Pure (Ear Music, 2021)

As sideman[edit]

With Jing Chi (Jimmy Haslip, Vinnie Colaiuta)

  • Jing Chi (Tone Center 2002)
  • Jing Chi Live at Yoshi's (Shrapnel 2003)
  • 3D (Tone Center 2004)
  • Supremo (Tone Center 2017)

With Jerry Granelli

  • A Song I Thought I Heard Buddy (Sing ITM, 1992)
  • Dance Hall (Justin Time 2017)
  • Koputai (ITM, 1990)
  • One Day at a Time (ITM, 1990)

With Kazu Matsui Project

  • Kazu Matsui Project featuring Robben Ford - Standing on the Outside (1983)

With Keiko Matsui

  • A Drop of Water (Japan, 1986)
  • Under Northern Lights (Japan, 1988)
  • No Borders (MCA, 1990)

With Michael McDonald

With Charlie Musselwhite

  • Louisiana Fog (Cherry Red, 1968)
  • Takin' My Time (Arhoolie, 1971)
  • Goin' Back Down South (Arhoolie, 1974)
  • Tell Me Where Have All the Good Times Gone? (Blue Rock'it, 1984)
  • One Night in America (Telarc, 2001)

With Tom Scott

  • Tom Cat (Ode, 1975)
  • Reed My Lips (GRP, 1994)
  • Night Creatures (GRP, 1995)
  • Bluestreak (GRP, 1996)

With Yellowjackets

With Jennifer Warnes

With others


  • 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. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Robben Ford Guitar Lesson - Crafting a Solo - Blues Revolution". TrueFire. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  10. ^ Bob Bakert. "Robben Ford Talks Candidly About His Career - October 2022". Jazz Guitar Today. Retrieved October 14, 2022.
  11. ^ "Robben Ford". Vintage Guitar® magazine. Retrieved January 7, 2015.
  12. ^ "Robben Ford Gets Lean and Clean". Guitar Player Magazine® magazine. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  13. ^ "Rig Rundown: Robben Ford". Premier Guitar® magazine. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
  14. ^ "10 Things We Learned from Robben Ford". Premier Guitar® magazine. Retrieved May 6, 2015.

External links[edit]