He became master of ceremonies of the bands in which he worked early in his career – Napoleon Zyas's, Leroy Tibbs', and Chick Webb's. He is credited with persuading Webb to hire Ella Fitzgerald. After a period leading his own band and touring England with Lew Leslie's Blackbirds, he returned to the Webb band, taking it over after Webb died. In 1940 he moved to California, where he became Johnny Otis's business partner, performing in Otis's band and opening the famous Barrelhouse Club with him. He played an important role in the early career of Charles Brown and was Redd Foxx's business manager.
Although it is widely reported that Bardu Ali was born September 23, 1910, he was born in 1906, and in Mississippi. His older brothers and sister were born in New Orleans, to Ella Blackman, and Moskad Ali. Ella was a New Orleans native, and Ali was an immigrant from Arabia. There were several children born to this union, and while two of the older sons moved to Galveston, TX, Ella moved to the Bronx, NY with her remaining children, and her sister Fanny. It was in NYC where Bardu (originally spelled Bahadur) fell in love with acting and music. He got involved with the Black cinema in the late 1920s and 30s. Eventually winding up as the front man for the Chick Webb. When Webb died, Bardu eventually formed his own band, and made his way to Los Angeles with his wife Tila. He and his band were the master of ceremonies at the Lincoln theater on Central Avenue. Although Bardu and his wife Tila did not have any children together, he did have a child from another union.