Born In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Bobby Shew began playing the guitar at the age of eight and switched to the trumpet at ten. By the time he was thirteen he was playing at local dances with a number of bands and by fifteen had put together his own group to play at dances, occasional concerts and in jazz coffee houses. He spent most of his high school days playing as many as six nights a week in a dinner club, giving him an early start to his professional career.
He then spent three years as the jazz trumpet soloist in the famed NORAD multi-service band. Shortly after leaving he joined the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra under the direction of Sam Donahue, which, among other things, gave him the chance to perform quite a bit with trumpet legend Charlie Shavers