Born in New Orleans, Rose moved to Hollywood where he found a job working as a comedy sketch writer with George Carlin. Among other assignments, he wrote for the Mort Sahl TV show. Eventually, Rose transitioned to songwriting.
Rose recorded his first two records for Tetragrammaton Records, an American record label founded in the late sixties by Roy Silver, Bruce Post Campbell, Marvin Deane, and Bill Cosby (whose manager was Roy Silver). David Bowie covered the song "Fill Your Heart," written by Biff Rose and Paul Williams, on his album Hunky Dory (1971), making it one of Rose's most well known compositions. It was originally released by Tiny Tim as the B-side to his 1968 hit single "Tiptoe through the Tulips". Rose was instrumental in giving Paul Williams his start in the music business; Williams wrote in the liner notes of his greatest hits package Evergreens – The Best of the A&M Years (2004) that Rose was his first songwriting collaborator and ultimately, his connection to A&M Records, having gotten Williams a meeting with publisher Chuck Kaye. Rose and Williams also wrote "I'll Walk Away", from Rose's third eponymous record, and "Someday", recorded by Sajid Khan in 1969 (Rose having composed the music and Williams the lyrics).
Following the release of 1968's The Thorn in Mrs. Rose's Side, which contained his hit single "Buzz the Fuzz" (viewable on YouTube), Rose made 12 appearances on Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show from 1968 to 1970. Rose performed his songs ("Gentle People" and "Myrtle's Pies") on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, the footage of which can be seen on YouTube. He also appeared on other popular programs of the day such as American Bandstand, The "Merv Griffin Show", The "David Frost Show" and Hugh Hefner's Playboy After Dark. He emceed the Atlantic City Pop Festival of 1969, and the Atlanta Pop Festival of 1970.
"Musically, Rose was firmly in the pre-World War II camp, sounding like a Broadway songwriter with his jaunty piano and bouncy singalong melodies......... with an arch and whimsical tone that both reflected and mocked the counterculture. When he sang about flowery love and idyllic free living, there were sarcastic and ironic undercurrents that made him hard to take seriously; at the same time, the words were too far out for him to get accepted by Broadway or the easy listening pop market.
There can be no doubt that Rose influenced Bowie's early-'70s work, particularly Hunky Dory, which owed something to Rose's early albums in both the quasi-musical piano styles and thorny-rose lyrics. Bowie, of course, was a much better singer and a much harder rocker. History gives certain molds and stances to artists that might not be 100-percent accurate, and some Bowie fans, as well as critics who have considered his early work unremittingly hip and cutting-edge, may find the notion—that an effete musical satirist such as Rose affected Bowie's work—unacceptable. Listening to the 1968 Rose LP The Thorn in Mrs. Rose's Side, however, it seems an inescapable conclusion that Bowie must have enjoyed the record and played it repeatedly, so much do some of its aspects (particularly the rolling piano arrangements and chipper orchestration) resemble the production employed on Hunky Dory"--Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide.
Full Length Releases
- The Thorn in Mrs. Rose's Side (1968, Tetragrammaton, re-released on Buddha)
- Children of Light (1969, Tetragrammaton, re-released on Buddha Records)
- Biff Rose [some copies titled Ride On] (1970, Buddha)
- Half Live at the Bitter End (1971, Buddha)
- Uncle Jesus, Aunty Christ (1972, United Artists)
- Hamburger Blues, [with Wall Matthews] (1974, Sweet Jane Limited)
- Roast Beef (1978, Pacific Arts/DownPat)
- Thee Messiah Album/Live at Gatsby's (1979, Pacific Arts/DownPat)
- Biff Rose at Discogs.com
- "The Ziggy Stardust Companion: Early beginnings". 5years.com. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
- "Evergreen". Oocities.org. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
- ""In A Far Away Land" The Japanese John Denver Page". Bekkoame.ne.jp. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
- "Columns: April 1969". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
- [dead link]
- "Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour - Episode Schedule". Smothersbrothers.com. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
- "Gentle People". YouTube. 2009-07-22. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
- TV.com. "American Bandstand - Season 13, Episode 21: Joe South / Biff Rose / Rhetta Hughes". TV.com. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
- "BR's Classic Rock Photos - Atlantic City Pop Festival". E-rockworld.com. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
- Majicat- Cat Stevens Scrapbook|url=http://www.majicat.com/articles/sterereview72.htm
- Unterberger, Richie (1937-10-15). "Biff Rose - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
- http://www.biffrose.com/ One Biff Rose official website