Branch is a three-time Grammy nominee, a retired two-term governor of the Chicago Grammy Chapter, an Emmy Award winner, and a winner of the Addy Award. In addition, he has received numerous humanitarian and music awards.
Branch was born in Great Lakes, Chicago, Illinois. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was five years old. In 1969 he moved to Chicago, where he graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Branch attended the first Chicago Blues Fest, produced by Willie Dixon, in 1969. Six years later, after graduating from the University of Illinois, he was touring with the Chicago Blues All-Stars, led by Willie Dixon. He soon took the place of the harmonica player Carey Bell, when Bell left the All-Stars to form his own band.
In the 1970s, Branch founded his own group, the Sons of Blues, with Lurrie Bell (the son of Carey Bell) on guitar and Freddie Dixon (the son of Willie Dixon) on bass guitar. They recorded for Alligator Records and, after a change in personnel, for Red Beans Records. The new band consisted of Carlos Johnson on guitar and J. W. Williams on vocals and bass guitar. Branch has also recorded for Verve Records and Evidence Records.
Since then, Branch has played on over 150 different recordings, including 12 under his own name. He has recorded with Willie Dixon, Johnny Winter, Lou Rawls, Koko Taylor, Eddy Clearwater, Honeyboy Edwards, Syl Johnson, Lurrie Bell, Ronnie Baker Brooks, and Taj Mahal. He has received three Grammy nominations (losing one nomination to B.B. King and Eric Clapton). He served two consecutive terms on the Grammy Board of Governors and currently is chairman of the Grammy Blues Committee. He has won multiple Blues Music Awards, an Emmy Award, an Addy Award, two Chicago Music Awards, and numerous humanitarian and achievement awards. The 2007 Chicago Blues Festival honored the 30th anniversary of Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues with a three-hour performance. The band also headlined the 2011 Chicago Blues Festival.
Branch annually appears at major festivals around the world, including the Montreux Blues Festival, the North Sea Blues Festival, the Cognac Blues Festivals and Long Beach Blues Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival, the San Francisco Blues Festival and the North Sea Jazz Festival.
The current lineup of the Sons of Blues consists of Branch (harmonica and vocals), Moses Rutues Jr. (drums and vocals), Sumito Ariyoshi (keyboards and vocals), and Dan Carelli (guitar and vocals).
- Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 95. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
- Dahl, Bill. "Billy Branch Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-08-04.
- Herzhaft, Gérard (1997). Encyclopedia of the Blues. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. p. 38. ISBN 1-55728-452-0.
- Gerard Greenidge (2000-08-31). "Online Forty Niner: v8n4: Festival ready to give Long Beach the blues". Csulb.edu. Retrieved 2012-12-06.
- "SFBF: 2000 Highlights". Sfblues.com. Retrieved 2012-12-06.
- "Chicago Blues: A Living History". North Sea Jazz. Retrieved 2012-12-06.