Born in Kingston, Bobby Ellis attended the Alpha Boys School which is famous for its musical alumni. While at this school Ellis received tuition on the trumpet and flugelhorn. The school's music curriculum consisted of marches, waltzes and classical pieces which gave Ellis an extensive knowledge of timing, harmony and form. These factors have contributed to his work as a horn arranger for the Studio One (record label). He also acted as arranger for producer Jack Ruby and was part of Ruby's studio band the Black Disciples, playing on Burning Spear's Marcus Garvey album and going on to tour as part of Spear's band for twelve years.