Robben Ford

Robben Ford is the third of four sons born to Charles and Kathryn Ford in 1951. Robben grew up in Ukiah, California, 120 miles north of San Francisco. Both parents loved music. Charles performed professionally as a young man singing and playing guitar, and Kathryn was an excellent singer and boogie-style piano player. As a result, the Ford brothers grew up listening to music. Whenever one of them showed an interest in an instrument the parents would do what they could to get them started.

Robben began by playing saxophone in the high school band. By the time he was in junior, he had started his first group with some friends playing saxophone, rhythm guitar, and also singing lead vocals. Robben's passion for the guitar was ignited after he discovered the Paul Butterfield Blues Band featuring Mike Bloomfield in 1965. He was a freshman at the time and had joined his older brother Patrick's band. The band began covering Paul Butterfield material mixed with R&B songs by such artists as Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. Robben conrinued to add to his list of influences including BB King, James Cotton, John Mayall, and Eric Clapton.

During high school, Robben continued to enjoy and explore music of all types. The rock idiom was full of energy and was itself being influenced by different musical styles. Rock was growing up led by such artists as Jimi Hendrox, the Yardbirds, Cream, Steve Winwood, and of course the Beatles. Like Robben, many of the artists he enjoyed the most had also been influenced by the blues to one degree or another

Along with his love for the blues, Robben began listening to jazz in those early years, and artists that to this day are probably his most important influences, including John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Robben's approach to playing the guitar was greatly influenced by the music of these and other jazz masters. Although he enjoyed the many great jazz guitarists, such as Wes Montgomery, it was really the horns that most moved him, espeaally the saxophone work of John Coltrane. Though Robben no longer plays the saxophone, he did not give it up until the mid 1970s after his work with Jimmy Witherspoon. He felt he needed to give his all to just one instrument. Up until that time he would on some nights play almost as much sax as guitar. According to many, Robben's skills on sax were in fact equal to his skills on guitar. When Robben joined Charlie Musselwhite's band in 1970, Charlie often had Robben playing sax on such instrumentals as Ray Charles' "Hard Times" or Robben's own "Blue Stu".

The gig with Charlie Musselwhite gave Robben his first serious exposure to the blues community. He was only eighteen years old and just out of school. This first professional gig with a "road" band and provided him his first real recording experience when Charlie recorded his "Takin My Time" LP for Arhoolie Records.

After a year with Charlie, Robben left with his brother Patrick to form the Charles Ford Band, along with brother Mark and friend Stan Poplin. This band lasted less than a year but had a major impact on the West Coast blues scene. Muddy Waters had just convinced Chess Records to offer the Charles Ford Band a contract when Mark decided to leave the music business for awhile. Luckily, several months after their breakup, Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records asked them to go in to the studio for two days of recording, saying it would be a shame for the band not to leave something behind on disk. So came about the Charles Ford Band LP. It still sells in CD form to this day and is considered by many to be a modern blues classic. This was Robbens first recording where he was a featured artist.

Robben quickly formed a new unit and had many record companies watching him closely, some making offers he was to turn down. His band was booked to back up Jimmy Witherspoon on a gig and when Spoon heard Robben he was so knocked out he pressed him and his band to move to LA and become his permanent band. Thus began a relationship that was to last several years, producing some spectacular music and a couple of great recordings. (When Robben left Spoon they were not to play together again until seventeen years later when in 1991 they were reunited at a festival in Norway.)

After leaving Witherspoon in 1974 Robben was invited to join the LA Express for a tour of the US and Canada along with Joni Mitchell. This became a two-year relationship and was Robben's introduction to the style of music known as "Fusion". It not only resulted in Robben recording a fusion release for Elektra Records, his first solo recording, but also led to the the formation of the band, The Yellow Jackets, which continues to have a world-wide following today.

Robben became an in-demand guitarist in LA, but always preferred live performance. His reputation was to land him tours and recordings with the likes of Joni Mitchell, George Harrison, Michael McDonald, David Sanborn, Randy Crawford and even a one-year stay with his most important musical icon and mentor, Miles Davis.

In 1982, ten years after their breakup, Robben reunited with the other members of the Charles Ford Band to play and record a series of gigs and release an LP dedicated to the brothers' Father who had just passed away. These recordings were released on Patrick's newly formed Blue Rock'It Records as The Charles Ford Band - "A Reunion".

During the next two years Robben continued his LA based career but as alI Charles Ford Band members had enjoyed doing the reunion gigs they did the same again in 1983 and 1984 and in fact took the band to Europe for a few dates with Charlie Musselwhite. Music from the US dates led to another Blue Rock'lt release years later, "As Real As It Gets".

Deciding it was time to form his own group, Robben put together a band composed of two of LA's finest musicians, Russel Ferrante and Vinnie Colaiata, along with Texas bassist Roscoe Beck. This band was to record the "Talk To Your Daughter" album for which Robben was to receive his first Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Recording. This release was to open eyes world wide to Robben's talents as a true blues artist.

Robben is without a doubt one of the most creative and honest men to play, write, and arrange in the blues idiom. He feels it as well as understands it. . . . He is Robben Ford, and there is none better.

Blue Rock'It Releases:

Robben Ford
The Blues Collection

Robben Ford & Jimmy Witherspoon
Live At The Notodden Blues Festival

Charles Ford Band
A Reunion

Charles Ford Band
As Real As It Gets

Performs On:

Blue Rock'It Sampler


Ford Blues Band
Fords & Friends

Mark Ford
Mark Ford & The Robben Ford Band

Mark Ford
Mark Ford & The Blue Line

Brownie McGhee
Facts Of Life

Charlie Musselwhite
Where Have All The Good Times Gone

© Blue Rock'It Records 2001-2007