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. After his stint with Tommy Dorsey, Bobby was asked to play with Woody Herman's band upon Bill Chase's recommendation. He then spent some time playing for Della Reese and Buddy Rich, who's big band had just been formed.
Many other similar situations followed and Bobby played lead trumpet for a number of pop stars. This brought Bobby to live in Las Vegas where he became prominent in various hotels and casinos. By this time Bobby was widely known for his strong lead playing rather than as a jazz soloist. So late in 1972 he decided to make a move to the Los Angeles area in order to get reinvolved in developing as a jazz player.
Once in Los Angeles, Bobby quickly found what he was looking for, and in the years to come he spent time with the groups of Art Pepper, Bud Shank, Horace Silver Quintet, and Frank Strazzeri-Sam Most, as well as numerous big bands such as Bill Holman, Louie Bellson, Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin, Oliver Nelson, Bill Berry, Nat Pierce-Frank Capp Juggernaut, Ed Shaughnessy, Terry Gibbs, Benny Goodman, Maynard Ferguson, Neal Hefti, Don Menza, and Bob Florence.