Born in San Francisco on June 21, 1919, Ford began performing in vaudeville at age 12 after having received dance training from his aunt, Ivy Ford. He also performed in bands as a clarinetist, working his way through college at the University of California at Berkeley. In World War II, he served with the 84th Infantry Division and fought in the Battle of the Bulge; after the war, he resumed his career and moved into standup comedy.
Ford lost his singing partner during an engagement of their act at the Last Chance Saloon in Alaska in 1952. He went to hear a young Canadian singer named Mimi Hines, who was playing the same town; the two teamed up to form Ford & Hines. They began working in nightclubs and other venues throughout Canada and the U.S., and they married in 1954. Their big big break came when they performed on The Jack Paar Show in August 1958. Ford & Hines went on to appear many more times on that show and on The Ed Sullivan Show, which led to bookings in America's top nightclubs.
In 1965, Ford played Eddie Ryan opposite Hines when she succeeded Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice in the original Broadway production of Funny Girl. Ford and Hines did many shows and tours after that, including the first national tour of I Do, I Do and several productions of Sugar Babies. Though they divorced in 1972, they remained close friends and continued to work together. In a 1998 production of Hello, Dolly! at the Gateway Playhouse in Long Island, Hines played Dolly Levi and Ford played Horace Vandergelder. In more recent years, the team reunited on several occasions to perform at benefits.
A versatile entertainer, Ford played clarinet and piano every day until his death and was also an accomplished songwriter, bandleader, singer, and actor. He appeared in the films Saturday Night Bath in Apple Valley (1965) and Fake-Out (1982); his television credits include Love, American Style and Quincy.
Ford was married three times in all, once before and once after his marriage to Hines. He is survived by a daughter, Sally Ford, and a sister, Treasure Ford (another one-time vaudevillian), both of Las Vegas. His son Gary preceded him in death.