Born in Aldershot on 11 September 1947 Catley's family moved to the Tile Cross area of Birmingham when he was young. He went on to attend the nearby Central Grammar School and left to start an apprenticeship at the GPO before deciding on a musical career shortly after meeting similarly minded individuals at college. During this time he joined several bands, such as The Smokestacks (who also included drummer Kex Gorin, Life and Clearwater. His first professional band was when he joined local outfit The Capitol Systems. The line up was Bob Catley (vocals) Paul Sargent (guitar) Charlie Harrison (bass) (replaced later by Dave Morgan), Dave Bailey (keyboards) and John 'Pank' Panteny (drums). Shortly afterwards they changed their name to Paradox, inspired by a science-fiction novel. A one off deal was arranged with Mercury after Paradox had come to the attention of Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt - the tracks chosen were "Ever Since I Can Remember", backed with "Goodbye Mary". In addition they recorded "Mary Colinto" and "Somebody Save Me". All of these songs were written by Dave Morgan.
Paradox went on to play festivals in Holland and Italy before splitting up on their return to the Uk in 1970. Bob remained determined to follow a career in music.
Formed in 1972, Magnum have undergone several changes in personnel over the years, however the core of vocalist Bob Catley and guitarist/songwriter Tony Clarkin remain today.
Magnum began as the house band at Birmingham’s famous Rum Runner night club (later the home of Duran Duran). They began to develop their own style by playing Clarkin's songs at a residency at The Railway Inn, in Birmingham's Curzon Street, in 1976. Joining Clarkin and Catley were drummer Kex Gorin and bassist Dave Morgan (later a member of ELO). Their most notable success during these early years was the Jeff Glixman produced Chase The Dragon (1982) which reached #17 in the UK, and included several songs that would be mainstays of the bands live set, notably "Soldier Of The Line", "Sacred Hour" and "The Spirit".
Their breakthrough album came in 1985 with On A Storyteller's Night which featured the single "Just Like An Arrow". This success continued in the following years with the Roger Taylor produced Vigilante in 1986, the top 5 album Wings Of Heaven in 1988, and the Keith Olsen produced Goodnight L.A. reaching #9 in the UK album charts in 1990.
In the summer of 1995 Tony Clarkin announced the band were to split following a farewell tour of the UK and Europe.
After Magnum split, a spin off group featuring Catley and Clarkin was formed called Hard Rain, and they released the albums Hard Rain and When The Good Times Come. It was around this time that Catley launched a solo career using various songwriters, including Gary Hughes of the band Ten. However, Hard Rain found gigs and booking hard to come by, and there were discussions about renaming the band as Magnum. Also, at this time, Catley was becoming increasingly focused on his solo career, and he quit Hard Rain, marking the end of a working relationship with Clarkin that dated back to 1972. After a quiet period Clarkin announced the end of Hard Rain.
Eventually, Tony Clarkin and Catley re-launched Magnum with the album Breath Of Life in 2002 on SPV. They were again joined by Stanway, with former Hard Rain bassist Al Barrow and former-Thunder drummer Harry James. This was subsequently followed by Brand New Morning in 2004.
Magnum completed work on a new studio album, Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow released on 26 March 2007, that also marked the return of cover artwork by Rodney Matthews. The album entered the UK Album Charts at #70, the first time Magnum have charted in the UK since 1994. It also reached #4 on the BBC Rock Album Charts and #60 in Germany, the bands biggest market outside of the UK along with Scandinavia.
Despite a busy touring and recording schedule with Magnum at this time, Bob Catley has found time to embark on a highly successful solo career. He was first approached by Gary Hughes (frontman of Rock band Ten) in 1998 to write a solo album. Bob teamed up with Gary who wrote all the songs on The Tower (as well as producing and playing bass and keyboards). The Tower was written with classic Magnum very much in mind and harks back to On A Storyteller's Night style pomp meeting Wings Of Heaven style AOR with a very 90s melodic rock production. The Tower was released in 1998 and was critically acclaimed.
Bob made his debut solo appearance at The Gods '98, performing a show stopping set featuring tracks from The Tower as well as classic Magnum songs. Such was the response to the show that Now & Then decided to release an "official bootleg" of the set. Live At The Gods which was released in January 1999 and features the full set list performed on the day. Bob's backing band for the concert was made up of Canadian label mates Emerald Rain with Vinny Burns (Ten) on lead guitar and Paul Hodson (Hard Rain) on keyboards. Bob and Emerald Rain also undertook a successful UK tour.
During the summer of 1999 recording commenced on Bob's second solo album Legends . Gary Hughes once again wrote and produced the album (as well as playing keyboards) with Ten's Vinny Burns and Steve McKenna and Dante Fox's John Cooksey providing the musical backing. The songs are based on various Legends , factual, fictional, historical and mythological.
Legends was launched at The Gods 99 where Bob headlined the Saturday night with Emerald Rain and Paul Hodson once again providing backing. Bob toured the UK extensively during 2000 with Paul Hodson and Native Cain providing his backing band. In the run up to Christmas 2000 Bob toured the UK again, and for one Spanish date, with special guest Kip Winger.
2001 saw the release of Bob's third album Middle Earth , which was based on J. R. R. Tolkien's epic The Lord of the Rings. The songs, once again penned by Gary Hughes, are based on various parts/incidents/characters from the book. Musicians on Middle Earth include Gary's band mates Ten plus a guest appearance by Landmarq vocalist Tracy Hitchings. Bob toured extensively in 2001 with Kip Winger opening acoustically early in the year, and then spent a month co-headlining UK and European dates with Ten later in the year.
2003 saw a change in writing partners for Catley - When Empires Burn was written and produced by Bob’s long time keyboard player Paul Hodson and features a much heavier sound, bordering on heavy metal. The backing band included Vince O’Regan (Guitars), Al Barrow (Bass) and Jamie Little (Drums). When Empires Burn was again backed by a full European tour, this time touring with the Yorkshire based band Lost Weekend.
Bob’s 2006 solo album Spirit Of Man was written by Dave Thompson and Paul Uttley of Lost Weekend and Vince O’Regan of Pulse, and was recorded at KRT Studio’s in Wolverhampton. Bob and Vince have co-produced the album. This is the first time that Catley has had a role in the production of one of his albums, and continues the somewhat heavier approach seen in the previous album. The album was supported by a full UK and European tour, including an intimate date at London's famous Underworld club.