Bonnie O'Farrell was born in Granite City, Illinois, the daughter of a steelworker. When she was young her parents divorced and remarried other spouses. She was raised with an extended family that included four half-and step-siblings. she began singing as a child. When she was five years old, she sang "Beautiful Golden Harbor" at the family church in Granite City. Bonnie started her musical career at the age of fifteen singing around St. Louis. She performed as a backup singer for blues musicians such as Albert King and Little Milton, and R&B singer Fontella Bass.