Forde was born in Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia in 1875. She was the sixth of the eight children of Lott Flannagan and Phoebe, who also had two children from a prior marriage. At the age of sixteen, she ran away from home to appear on the Sydney music hall stage, adopting the surname of her stepfather, Thomas Ford, adding an 'e'. At the age of 21, in 1897, she left for London, and on August Bank Holiday 1897, she made her first appearances in London at three music halls – the South London Palace, the Pavilion and the Oxford – in the course of one evening. She became an immediate star, making the first of her many sound recordings in 1903 and making 700 individual recordings by 1936.
Forde had a powerful stage presence, and specialised in songs that had powerful and memorable choruses in which the audience was encouraged to join. She was soon drawing top billing, singing songs such as "Down at the Old Bull and Bush" and "Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?". She appeared in the very first Royal Command Performance in 1912. During World War I, her most famous songs were some of the best known of the period, including "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag", "It's A Long Way To Tipperary" and "Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty".
Florrie Forde - Waltz me around again, Willie