Adrian Ford

Adrian Ford, who died in 2017, was regarded as one of Australia’s top jazz pianists. In addition to piano, he also played trombone, clarinet and cornet, and taught clarinet. He was also a talented composer and arranger. Although known primarily as a jazz person, his top love of music may well have been ragtime, but he had more opportunity to pursue jazz. His main outlet for ragtime was performing solo piano at jazz festivals; performing at jazz festivals with his group Spirituals to Ragtime, and including ragtime as a component of his many solo piano performances.

Over his lifetime he wrote, so far as we are aware, 31 ragtime tunes, making him a very prolific Australian ragtime composer. Few of his ragtime tunes were ever recorded commercially, but he did create renditions of about half of these tunes for friends, and here we present those renditions plus performances of other tunes created from sheet music in the possession of his fellow ragtime enthusiast David Beattie.

Some visitors may argue that the tunes are not all rags, but we don’t claim they are – some are most certainly rags and the others we just feel have sufficient syncopation to be deemed to be ragtime.

Alas we do not have access to the sheet music for 9 of Adrian’s ragtime tunes (Boronia Rag, Brooklyn Rag, Forbes Street Stomp, Glasstime Rag, Mulla Mulla Rag, Ron Knight Stomp, Royal George Rag, Two-Handed Ragtime Blues Stomp and Unrehearsed Rag). We understand that the Australian Jazz Convention Archives have the sheets for Ron Knight Stomp and that they will be accessible once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in Victoria. If anyone has either a rendition or the sheet music of any of these we would be very grateful to secure copies and add renditions to this page.

Below are some biographical notes on Adrian, his discography and details of his winning entries in the Australian Jazz Convention Original Tunes Competition, followed by a table of Adrian’s ragtime tunes with links to mp3 renditions of most of the tunes.

Many thanks to the Australian Jazz Museum (Mel Blachford OAM and Robert Ayres in particular), Bill Haesler OAM, Margaret Anderson, Dr Harold Fabrikant and Steve Grant for their help in making this page possible.

David Beattie & Michael Mathew
November, 2020

ragtime.dave1 @



Adrian Ford

Jazzman Adrian de Brabander Ford was born in Sydney on 26 April 1940. He was the second of three brothers. He began piano at the age of eight, studying for two years at a local piano school from the age of nine. His teacher gave him a love of Fats Waller and taught via the Shefte Method, both of which influenced his approach to stride and syncopation. He came into jazz in 1957 as a teenager, listening to the Paramount Jazz Band at the Sydney Jazz Club. He was a graduate of the SJC’s 1960s musician’s workshop, and took up trombone and clarinet. He later also took up cornet, and taught clarinet. Adrian was left-handed, which we suggest may explain his solid left hand on the piano – ideal for stride and handy for ragtime.

Adrian joined the Jazz Pirates in 1962, worked with Geoff Bull’s Olympia Jazz Band during 1965-69, Graeme Bell All Stars, the Big Apple Union blues band, and with various rock groups.

He formed the York Gospel Singers in 1966 specifically to perform gospel music and used singers Allison McCullum, Jeannie Lewis, John Bates, Bob Coneroy and John Dawe. The York group appeared as the support group for a Sydney Town Hall concert featuring US blues singers Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee and were a hit at the 1966 Australian Jazz Convention in Melbourne.

He toured Europe, Canada and the US with Maurie Garbutt’s Melbourne-based Yarra Yarra New Orleans Jazz Band from 1969 to 1971. He was offered some jazz jobs, in Paris, London, etc. and was asked if he would be keen to join up with the late great band lead leader and legend in the UK, Ken Colyer, but decided the bottom half of the globe offered a better life-style.

On his return to Sydney Adrian joined Chris Williams' Jazz Band (later to become the Unity Jazz Band) and was co-founder of the Bill Haesler Washboard Band in November 1971, having played with Bill since 1969. He toured Australia with the Yarra Yarra New Orleans Jazz Band and New Orleans trumpet player Alvin Alcorn in April 1973 and, over the years, freelanced at a vast number of venues on piano, trombone and clarinet.

An annual Australian Jazz Convention regular, Adrian had a composer’s flair and won its Original Tunes Competition on five occasions. He formed the Charleston Chasers in 1976, his Big Band in 1976 and, among others, worked with Nick Boston’s New Orleans Jazz Band (1982), the Purple Grape Quartet (1988), Jiri Kripac’s Hot Buns (1992-93), Bill Dudley’s New Orleans and was a founder of Squeak and Squawk. He was a familiar face at jazz concerts, jazz festivals and local and interstate jazz clubs, recorded as a soloist, with the bands he worked with, and others. Adrian was a Director of the Professional Musicians' Club from 1976 until 2015.

Adrian worked in the paymaster’s office at Cockatoo Island for many years. On retrenchment he worked as a house painter, learnt the trade and ran his own business up until about 2013. He married twice, first to Claire, a French girl whom he met in Paris during the 1969-71 Yarra Yarra Band tour and we understand they married in Germany. She returned with him to Australia and they lived in Balmain. When the marriage broke up years later she returned to Paris. Adrian moved to Balmain and married Maggie early in the 1990’s knowing she had MS. Maggie died in 2019.

Adrian became ill following a mild stroke in November 2013 and was reluctantly forced into musical retirement. He died at The Parkview Nursing Home, Five Dock NSW on Wednesday, 5th July 2017 following his long illness.



Type Year Title Details
LPs 1971 The Yarra Jazz Band On Tour Volume 1 GHB-78 Issued in the US in 1982
  1971 The Yarra Jazz Band On Tour Volume 2 GHB-79 Issued in the US in 1982
  1973 Alvin Alcorn with the Yarra Yarra Jazz Band Emulation EMU 001
  1973 The Unity Jazz Band Festival L-25064
  1973 Bill Haesler’s Washboard Band (1 pno-wb duet) Festival L-25065
  1973 Adrian Ford - Piano Solos Festival L-25119
  1973 The Unity Jazz Ensemble Picture PRF-1002
  1973 Bill Haesler's Washboard Band Picture PRF-1004
  1974 Adrian Ford (4 piano solos) Jazznote JNLP-011/S 'The Piano Players'
45 rpms 1974 Film Sound Track for Between Wars Rainbow KS-8
  1978 Trevor Knight with the Adrian Ford Jazz Band RCA Victor 103147
LPs 1976 Adrian Ford's Big Band & The Charleston Strutters Endrust  ER-1    'Endrust and all that Jazz'
  1976 The Adrian Ford Orchestra 44 9288 002; Anteater 006 'Swing That Music'
  1977 Adrian Ford (1 piano solo) KGC KL 20026     'Endrust and all that Jazz Vol II'
  1977 Adrian Ford's Big Band Hammard HAM 022   'Trad, Dixieland and all that Jazz'
  1982 Nick boston's new orleans jazz band (includes 2 cornet-piano duets) Star NB 001; Anteater NB 001 C
Casettes 1971 Yarra Yarra Jazz Band YYJB USA 1971
  1983 (2 piano solos) Mildura Jazz Jamboree 1983
  1988 The Purple Grape Quartet No number
  1989 Yarra Yarra New Orleans Jazz Band No number
CDs 1992 Jiri's Hot Buns (Adrian plays piano on 2 tracks) Future Tradition FTCD-01. 'Jazzmates'
  1993 Jiri's Hot Buns Future Tradition FTCD-02. 'That Harlem Swing'
  1996 Peggy And Her Jazz Pets [Bathurst AJC] POT-001
  1996 Peggy And Her Jazz Pets [Bathurst AJC] POT-001
  1999 Marysville Jazz Band [Bathurst AJC] MJBCO Volume 2
  1973-99 Yarra Yarra Jazz Band No number
  2010 Adrian Ford The Naked Dance No number

Adrian's songs “Deceptive Moon” and “Hush a Bye” are included on Jeff Bradley’s “Sunset” CD.


Winning Entries, Australian Jazz Convention Original Tunes Competition

1974     Vy Vee
1975     Ex and Bacon
1982     Late Again
2008     I Know that My Wife Cares
2010     This is Paradise


The tune list

Right click on the audio controls to download the performance.

Title (Subtitle) Audio Year Of Composition Our Source of Sheet Music Performer Duration
A Grey Day 1997 David Beattie Adrian Ford 2:00
Annandale Stomp1 ~2000 David Beattie Steve Grant* 2:22
Bev's Washboard Band Rag (In B#)2 2002 David Beattie Adrian Ford 3:34
Black Wattle3 1975 David Beattie David Beattie 3:59
Boronia Rag4   1974/5      
Brooklyn Rag (with Paul Furniss)5          
Bushland Sundown6 1993 David Beattie Adrian Ford 4:31
Christmas Bells Rag7 2001 David Beattie Adrian Ford 2:42
Eat Quick's Dinner Dance ~2013   Adrian Ford 2:34
Elbow Bruiser Pre 1973   Bill Haesler’s Washboard Band** 5:13
Forbes Street Stomp8          
Ghost Gums9 2000 David Beattie Adrian Ford 3:13
Glasstime Rag   1975      
Jan '07 2007   Adrian Ford 3:00
Jedda10 2001   Adrian Ford 2:58
Jelly Johnson's Jump ~2013 David Beattie Steve Grant* 3:06
Minor Stomp 2001 David Beattie Adrian Ford 1:26
Missie's Rag11 1990's David Beattie Adrian Ford 4:05
Mulla Mulla Rag12          
Northern Star Blues ~2006   Adrian Ford 1:21
Patterson's Curse13   2007 David Beattie    
Ron Knight Stomp14   2006 Australian Jazz Convention Archives?    
Royal George Rag15   1972      
Rozelle Stomp16 ~2000   Adrian Ford 3:54
The Gumnut Dance (Rag)17 2001 David Beattie Harold Fabrikant*** 3:03
The Lilly Pilly18 2001 David Beattie Harold Fabrikant*** 3:21
The Washboard Dyer (A Latin Tinge)2 2005 David Beattie Steve Grant* 3:46
Two-Handed Ragtime Blues Stomp          
Unoriginal Rags 1973   Bill Haesler’s Washboard Band** 3:11
Unrehearsed Rag 1972        
Wallaby Wabble19 1976 David Beattie Adrian Ford 2:15

* Specially recorded for this web page by Steve Grant.

** Made available here with the permission of Bill Haesler OAM.

*** Made available here with the permission of Dr Harold Fabrikant.



Much of Adrian’s choice of title reflected his love of Australiana. Specific comments for the above are:-

1. Annandale is an inner west Sydney suburb near where Adrian lived.
2. Bev Spence was a local character, originally from the USA, who used washboards as a device for entertaining residents of retirement homes. She was honoured by several jazz performers composing tunes in her name. Two of these are here.
3. The wattle is Australia’s national flower. Black wattle is one variety.
4. The Boronia is a native Australian flower.
5. During the mid 1950’s - late 1960’s the Brooklyn Hotel was a popular Jazz pub at the top end of George St near Circular Quay, opposite the Ironworker’s Hall (home at that time of the Sydney Jazz Club).
6. Bushland represents unadulterated Australian natural terrain.
7. Christmas Bells are native Australian flowers which blossom at Christmas time.
8. Forbes Street is a well-known street in the Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst; No 184 was the home of the ABC Studio complex from July 1936 until July 1991. Adrian probably did a broadcast/interview from these studios and this could quite likely be an original tune he used for such interview.
9. Gums are the Australian terminology for the native Eucalyptus trees. Ghost gums have a very pale bark.
10. Jedda was a 1955 Australian film about an Aboriginal woman, but more likely this tune was named after the dog owned by Jess and Bill Haesler.
11. Missie was the name of Adrian and Maggie’s cat.
12. Mulla Mulla is a native Australian flower. The name comes from an Aboriginal language.
13. This was a fun title chosen to contrast the many rag titles using lovely flowers. Patterson’s curse is an Australian weed which does a lot of damage.
14. Ron Knight was a founding member of the Jazz Club of WA in 1994. He was a regular participant tin the Australian Jazz Conventions and he and his wife Judy sponsored the AJC Original tunes in 2014. Ron died in 2015.
15. The Royal George Hotel is a heritage listed pub on the corner of Sussex and King Sts in Sydney, and was the home of the intellectual arts group called the Sydney Push. The Bill Haesler Jazz Band played there on Saturday afternoons until late 1973.
16. Rozelle is the inner west Sydney suburb where Adrian and Maggie lived.
17. Gumnuts are seed pods from gum trees (see note 9).
18. The Lilly Pilly is a native Australian plant.
19. A wallaby is an Australian marsupial similar to a kangaroo.


The End