Bobby Wellins was born Robert Coull Wellins in Glasgow in 1936. His father, of Russian and Polish extraction, was a saxophonist and clarinet player; his mother a singer. Together they had appeared in the Sammy Miller Show Band and later performed as a duo.
During the war Bobby was evacuated to stay with relatives at Ferryden, Montrose on Scotland's east coast, a locality which still holds a place in Bobby's affections. Bobby's father started him on lessons on alto saxophone at 12 years of age, teaching him not only music notation and saxophone technique but introducing him to harmony, teaching him chord progressions at the piano. Bobby then moved south, taking a three year course at Chichester College of Further Education studying keyboard harmony. He spent a spell at the RAF School of Music in Uxbridge, studying clarinet.
On leaving the RAF, Bobby entered the world of the Palais bands, including spells with Malcolm Mitchell and Vic Lewis. His tenure with Lewis included a trip on the liners to New York where Bobby, emerging one afternoon from his hotel, recognised a passing Lester Young. Bobby picked up enough courage to approach his idol and spent the next two hours in a bar introducing his fellow band members to the great man.
He played on one of the biggest selling jazz albums ever produced in this country, Stan Tracey's Under Milkwood, recorded in the late sixties. In the eighties he led the Charlie Watts Big Band, as well as a number of small groups which re-established him as one of the finest melodic saxophonists in the world. For many years he has had a strong association with drummer Spike Wells who is his perfect percussive partner, regarded for his creativity and musicality.
His gentle sound and approach are unique. He has one of the most instantly recognizable sounds of any saxophonist and he is respected by jazz musicians the world over.