Bonds was born Gary Anderson, and after moving to the Norfolk, VA area as a teenager, quickly graduated from church choirs to street corner doo-wop groups. He was discovered by an aspiring music promoter named Frank Guida, who signed the young vocalist to an indie label he owned. He also took over his management. Guida presented Anderson with a song he had co-written named "New Orleans." They went in the studio and cut it with the best R&B studio musicians available there at the time, and within weeks it was a hit. When Guida handed Anderson the 45 rpm record, he noticed it did not have his name on it. It was credited to U.S. Bonds.
"My ex-manager titled me with that in 1959, I believe," says Bonds. "He used to have a delicatessen next to the studio we recorded at, and this guy had all these U.S. bonds, banners and flags hanging in there. The guy was real patriotic. I was upset at first, especially since the original billing was just 'U.S. Bonds.' We added 'Gary' to the name with the next record. I got over it. It ended up working out OK for me." Guida actually titled the first record "U.S. Bonds," thinking DJs would play it with the notion that it was a public service announcement for savings bonds. In the end, it was not necessary; they played it because it rocked.