Townsend was born in Princeton, Kentucky. His father was also a pianist, who started his son on the instrument at age seven. He moved to Cleveland in 1933 and attended the Cleveland Institute of Music. He accompanied local singers such as Little Jimmy Scott and Wynonie Harris and played freelance from 1953 with Gene Ammons, John Coltrane, Memphis Slim, and Jimmy Reed. He made several tours of Europe as a solo performer.
Townsend was active in New York City from 1959 almost up until his death there in 2003; he worked with Warren Smith (in the Composer's Workshop Ensemble), Carrie Smith, Bubba Brooks, Woody Herman, Diana Ross, Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, Arvell Shaw, in addition to performing solo.
Townsend went blind in the middle of the 1990s but continued to perform.
- As leader/co-leader
- What a Body – Bross Townsend and his trio – GP label GBTB 5030
- 1995: I Love Jump Jazz (Claves Jazz)
- With The 3B's
- 1993: After Hours with The 3B's
- 1994: Soothin' n Groovin' with the 3B's – additional personnel: Eunice Newkirk (vocals); Donny Albano, Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar); Rob Paparozzi (harmonica); Houston Person (tenor saxophone); Fred Smith (trumpet).
I GOT MUSIC ON MY MIND BROSS TOWNSEND BNH LABEL 1998 CD MASA (SS) GREG BANDY (d) JOHN DOOLEY (b) RON MONROE (elec b) BOB CUNNINGHAM (b) RUDY PETSCHAUER (d) GREG BOBULINSKI (tp) BROSS TOWNSEND (p)
- Flückiger, Otto. "Bross Townsend". Grove Jazz online.