Every musician has a story about the spark they needed to get them to pick up their instrument. For Robben Ford, it came on Christmas Eve in 1964.
He was 13 and growing up in Ukiah when his father “called up the owner of a local music shop who we all knew. But it was Christmas Eve, so they were closed. My father asked him to come down and open up the shop. There were three guitars hanging on the wall and he said, ‘Pick one.’ ”
Who knew that the cheap, Japanese-made, “weird electric guitar” called an Orpheus would one day lead to an early professional gig with blues great Charlie Musselwhite, tours with George Har- rison and Miles Davis, recordings with Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt and a solo career as one of the most agile and enduring blues guitarists to come of age in the 1960s.
To pay back the favor, he named his first band, the Charles Ford Band, after his father, who was “a professional musician before he got married.”
These days, Robben Ford, 62, lives in Ojai. When he’s not touring or recording new albums (his latest is called “A Day in Nashville”), he’s teaching guitar chops both in person and online.
Before he plays the 20th annual Bodega Seafood Art and Wine Festival this weekend, Ford took time to talk about family, marathon recording sessions and embracing change.
Q: How did your father influence you?
A: Well, he showed me my first few guitar chords. He sang bass in church and I developed a love of bass and actually thought I was going to be a bass player for awhile. But the guitar was definitely the instrument I was built to play.
Q: And the saxophone was somewhere in there, too?
A: Yes, my first instrument was the saxophone, and I continued to play it through high school. But by the time I was starting to be hired to play guitar, the saxophone fell off.
Q: I want to make sure I understand this. You cut nine tracks in one day for “A Day in Nashville”?
A: Yes, it was supposed to be a live album that we recorded in Germany. But when we got back, my co-producer and I both agreed the recording didn’t stand up. So we just decided we’d find a day and do it all over again in a controlled session.
Q: I think it’s safe to say nobody does that any more.
A: No, nobody wants to do it. But we had a deadline to meet.
Q: How have you seen the music business change since you first started?
A: Well, the obvious is the virtual death of record companies and the rise of online and viral marketing. Because of all that, record sales vanished because people for some reason thought they should have music for free. Everything at some point will fall and something new rises out of it. It took me, and the people around me, a little too much time to embrace these changes. But I have since embraced them and I don’t complain about it anymore.
Q: What should we expect in Bodega?
A: We’ll probably do music from the “Bringing it Back Home” record and “A Day in Nashville” record. Little else beyond that in terms of older material, and there may even be something we haven’t recorded yet.
For more PD coverage of SMART, go here