Bill Barron was born on March 27, 1927 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the oldest of five. His first interest in music was encouraged by his mother, who bought him a piano and gave him lessons at the age of nine. At the age of thirteen, Bill switched to saxophone and studied musical theory, harmony and counterpoint throughout high school. He left school in 1944 to go on the road with the Carolina Cotton Pickers, through whose ranks have passed the such legendaries as Jimmy Heath, John Coltrane and Johnny Coles.
Barron's civilian musical career was interupted with his induction into the army where he continued playing and arranging for the army band, which included fellow jazz-artists Randy Weston and Ernie Henry. After his discharge, he moved back to Philadelphia where he enrolled at the Ornstein School of Music where he studied theory and compostion. During this period, he also began performing with Red Garland's Quartet and Philly Joe Jones' group.