Ronald Bertram Aloysius Greaves III was born November 28, 1944 on the United States Air Force base at Georgetown, Guyana.A nephew of Sam Cooke, he grew up on a Seminole Indian reservation in the United States, but moved to England in 1963. Greaves had built a career both in the Caribbean and in Great Britain, where he performed under the name Sonny Childe with his group The TNTs. His debut single "Take a Letter Maria", released under the name R.B. Greaves, had been recorded by both Tom Jones and Stevie Wonder before the author recorded it himself at the insistence of Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegün, who produced it. The song is the story of a man who learns of his wife's infidelity the night before and dictates a letter of separation to "Maria", his ostensibly Hispanic secretary. This disc stayed in the Billboard chart for 15 weeks, selling a million copies with the gold record from the R.I.A.A. on 11 December 1969. By 1970 sales of the record totalled 2.5 million.
Greaves recorded a series of cover versions as follow-ups, including Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me" and Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale".Greaves left the label in the 1970s in favor of Bareback Records, and then signed to Sunflower Records. His only chart release for the latter label was "Margie, Who's Watching the Baby".