R&B singer and lyricist Gary U.S. Bonds was born Gary Levohn Anderson Jr. on June 6, 1939, in Jacksonville, Florida, to Irene Anderson, a piano teacher, and Gary Anderson Sr., a professor at Hampton Institute. The family moved to Norfolk, Virginia, when he was 2 years old. In the 1950s, as a teenager, Bonds and friends harmonized doo-wop on the corner of Church Street and Brambleton Avenue in Norfolk. Bonds later formed The Turks comprising Melvin McNair, Hollis Coleman, Thomas High, Hermione Gross, and Raymond Haskins.
After graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in 1957, Bonds in 1958 adopted his stage name during the period when the United States government promoted U.S. Saving Bonds.
Bonds’ first hit, “New Orleans,” peaked at no. 6 in 1960 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained charted for 14 weeks. The following year, 1961, he released the minor hit “Not Me.” His next single, “Quarter To Three,” reached no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for 15 weeks. It also peaked at no. 3 on the R&B singles chart and sold 1 million records. Bond’s first royalty check was for $120,000 and his second tour took him abroad to London, England, where he performed with Roy Orbison and Gene McDaniels.
The 1962 record, “School Is Out,” was also successful, reaching no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and 12 on the R&B singles chart. Bonds followed with “School Is In,” which peaked at no. 25 that same year on the Billboard Hot 100. “Dear Lady Twist” went no. 9 in 1963 on the Hot 100 chart followed by “Seven Day Weekend,” which reached no. 27. Bonds married Laurie Cedeno from Brooklyn, New York, in 1962, and they have one child, Laurie Anderson.
In a 1963 tour of Europe, Bonds headlined several groups including the Beatles. His popularity waned after that and by the early 1970s he turned to country music. His song “She’s All I Got” was nominated for the Country Music Association’s “Song of the Year” in 1972.
Bonds returned to rock ‘n’ roll in the 1980s and in 1981, his single “This Little Girl,” from the album Dedication, peaked at no. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained charted for 18 weeks. Dedication garnered Bonds his first Grammy nomination in 1981 for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 23rd Annual Grammy Awards. He followed in 1982 with “Out of Work” which peaked at no. 21 and remained on the charts for 16 weeks. This was his last hit record although he released albums Back in 20 in 2004 and Let Them Talk in 2009.
In 1997, Bonds was honored by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation and in 2002 he was inducted into Norfolk’s Legends of Music Walk of Fame. In 2006, Bonds was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. In 2021, “Quarter To Three” appeared at no. 119 on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list.
Gary U.S. Bonds, now based in New York City and the lead artist of the “Norfolk Sound,” continues to perform in small settings nationwide.