Bobby Adams was born Robert Reid Adams on February 15, 1946 in Dallas, Texas and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. His father, a former boxer and strict—at times, brutal—disciplinarian, operated a floor sanding business in Dundalk. His beloved and gentle mother taught school and would eventually commit suicide in 1976.
Adams graduated in 1964 from Sparrows Point Senior High School, where, he says, the only wisdom he learned came via an exercise in typing class that required him to spell over and over: "There once was a man, they called him mad. The more he gave, the more he had."
Adams was designated 4-F (a candidate found to be unfit for military service after formal examination) due to his hearing and avoided being sent to Vietnam. He became a pirate radio DJ in the late-1960s, playing functions around Baltimore as The Psychedelic Pig and spinning records for a station he dubbed W.E.E.D. He assembled elaborate scrapbooks stuffed with psychedelic collages and philosophical, often humorous, musings to illustrate his DJ patter and circulate amongst listeners at gigs.