Bramlett was born in Alton, Illinois. She started her musical career at the age of thirteen as a backup singer for blues singers such as Albert King and Little Milton and the R&B singer Fontella Bass.
She was the first white woman to sing with Ike and Tina Turner as one of the Ikettes. She eventually moved to Los Angeles, where she met the singer Delaney Bramlett in 1967 at a bowling alley gig for his band, the Shindogs. They were married within the week. Their daughter, Bekka Bramlett, who is now also a singer, was born the following year.
The duo signed with Stax Records and became known as Delaney & Bonnie. They soon toured Europe with the British rock guitarist Eric Clapton. With frequent drop-in performances by other noted musicians like Duane Allman, George Harrison, and Dave Mason, the group became known as Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. Despite this all-star assistance, only two songs by Delaney and Bonnie reached the charts, their best-known "Never Ending Song of Love" and a cover of Mason's "Only You Know and I Know". Delaney and Bonnie co-wrote, with Leon Russell, "Superstar," popularized by the Carpenters, and the classic "Let It Rain", which is included on Clapton's eponymous first album.
In 1969, The Rolling Stones originally asked Bonnie to sing a duet with Mick Jagger on their now-infamous song "Gimme Shelter", but Bramlett's husband, Delaney, refused to let her perform with the Stones. The Stones then asked soul and gospel singer Merry Clayton to sing on the track. It remains the most prominent contribution to a Rolling Stones track by a female vocalist.
Delaney and Bonnie disbanded, both musically and maritally, in 1972. Bonnie Bramlett continued her career as a solo songwriter and recording artist. She released Sweet Bonnie Bramlett in 1973, backed by the Average White Band. She toured the United States with her band, the Entertainers, consisting of Mike Baxter on keyboards; Little Moe Mosely on drums; Doc Schwebke on bass; Michael Elliot and Phillip John Diaz on guitar; Larry Williams and Big John Rayford on saxophones; Carolyn Brandt, Lagatha Smallwood, and Lea Santos as background singers; and Gabe Flemings, the bandleader, on trumpet. Bramlett continued to contribute vocals to recordings by other artists, including Little Feat and the Allman Brothers Band.
In 1979, Bramlett travelled to Havana, Cuba, to participate in the historic Havana Jam festival, alongside Stephen Stills, the CBS Jazz All-Stars, the Trio of Doom, Fania All-Stars, Billy Swan, Weather Report, Mike Finnegan, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge and Billy Joel, plus an array of Cuban artists such as Irakere, Pacho Alonso, Tata Güines and Orquesta Aragón. Her performance appears in Havana Jam '79 a documentary film by Ernesto Juan Castellanos.
While on tour with Stills in 1979, Bramlett punched Elvis Costello in the face at a hotel bar in Columbus, Ohio, after Costello referred to James Brown as a "jive-ass nigger" and Ray Charles a "blind, ignorant nigger". Costello apologized at a press conference in New York City a few days later, claiming he had been drunk and had been trying to be obnoxious in order to bring the conversation to a swift conclusion. According to Costello, "it became necessary for me to outrage these people with about the most obnoxious and offensive remarks that I could muster."
After exploring gospel music in the '80s, Bonnie married Danny Sheridan in 1988. He produced her next recordings, in which she was backed by the Bandaloo Doctors, with their self-proclaimed "revolutionary hard rockin' blues". The group's music attracted the admiration of many Hollywood celebrities, and the couple was soon cast for several seasons as semi-regulars on the hit ABC series Roseanne. Bonnie (credited as Bonnie Sheridan) played a co-worker and friend (named Bonnie) of Roseanne Barr's character Roseanne Conner, with Danny Sheridan occasionally writing music and appearing as the character Hank the bass player. During this period, Delaney and Bonnie's daughter, Bekka Bramlett, also started a singing career, eventually joining Fleetwood Mac in 1993 after the departure of Stevie Nicks.
Bonnie and Delaney Bramlett had small roles in the 1971 film Vanishing Point and in 1974's Catch My Soul. Bonnie also guest-starred in an episode of Fame in 1986 and in the 1991 movie The Doors, playing a bartender. She also appeared in the Andrew Davis film The Guardian (2006), starring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher.
In 2002, Bramlett returned to her musical roots, releasing the album I'm Still the Same. In 2006, she was a backup vocalist for the Southern rock artist Shooter Jennings on his album Electric Rodeo. She declined to accompany him on his ensuing tour.Delaney & Bonnie:
Home (Stax, 1969)
Accept No Substitute, previously entitled The Original Delaney & Bonnie (Elektra, 1969)
On Tour with Eric Clapton (Atco, 1970)
To Bonnie from Delaney (Atco, 1970)
Genesis (GNP Crescendo, 1971)
Motel Shot (Atco, 1971)
Country Life (Atco, 1972)
D&B Together (Columbia, 1972), reissue of Country Life
The Best of Delaney & Bonnie (Atco, 1972)
The Best of Delaney & Bonnie (Rhino, 1990)
Sweet Bonnie Bramlett (Columbia, 1973)
It's Time (Capricorn, 1975)
Lady's Choice (Capricorn, 1976)
Memories (Capricorn, 1978)
Step by Step (Refuge/Benson 1981)
I'm Still the Same (Audium/Koch, 2002)
It's Time/Lady's Choice (Raven, 2004), reissue of 2 LPs on 1 CD
Roots, Blues & Jazz (Zoho, 2006)
Beautiful (Rockin' Camel, 2008)
Piece of My Heart: The Best of 1969–1978 (Raven, 2008)
I Can Laugh About It Now (Music Avenue, 2009), reissue of Roots, Blues & Jazz
Vanishing Point (1971)
Catch My Soul (AKA Santa Fe Satan) (1974)
Fame, episode "Fame and Fortune" (1986)
The Doors (1991)
The Guardian (2006)
Roseanne's Nuts, episode "Star Spangled Banner" (2011)