Being one of nine children his parents died while he was very young. He was raised by the neighbours family. At the age of twelve he taught himself the guitar. Starting a musician's career as teenager he won the first prize at Trummy Cain's talent show at the Lincoln Theater in Houston, Texas in 1948.
In (according to Sheldon Harris) 1954 to 1957, he recorded several singles for the Oakland, California based Irma Label, but not all were released at the time. In 1960 he recorded again this time for the Goldband, Storyville, and Jan & Dill labels. From 1967 to 1970, Chris Strachwitz's Arhoolie Record Label released several LPs. Bonner recorded mostly original song material through his recording career. Among the earliest festival bookings for the young Tom Radai, Juke Boy was a featured artist at the early Ann Arbor Blues Festival, the American Folk Blues Festival in Europe, and the Montreux Blues Festival. In 1972 he released an LP for Sonet records, in 1975 another one for the Houston-based Home Cooking Label.
He died in 1978 aged 46 of cirrhosis of the liver.