Rockford had served time in California's San Quentin Prison in the 1960s due to a wrongful conviction. After five years, he received a pardon. His infrequent jobs as a private investigator barely allowed him to maintain his dilapidated mobile home (which doubled as his office) in a parking lot on the beaches of Malibu, California.
Rockford's father, Joseph "Rocky" Rockford, was an ex-Seabee, semi-retired semi-truck driver who often nagged his son to get more stable (and less dangerous) employment, often urging him to follow in his footsteps as a truck driver. The relationship of father and son was an integral part of the show.