Born David Charles Lawrence in Worthing, West Sussex, England, he migrated with his family to New Zealand in 1946, settling in New Plymouth before moving to Wellington in 1948.
Lawrence spent most of his life in New Zealand, but also worked extensively in Australia. He was a renowned jazz and rock drummer, playing drums in many bands, including Max Merritt & The Meteors, Quincy Conserve,Blerta, and The Crocodiles. His last recording was with Bernie McGann, Larry Gales and Jonathan Crayford on "Jazz at the St. James" in 1989.
In the early 1970s, Lawrence founded Blerta ("Bruno Lawrence's Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition"). The multi and theatrical co-operative toured New Zealand and in parts of Australia. Blerta saw him performing alongside many people he would work with later as an actor, including director Geoff Murphy, and actors Martyn Sanderson and Ian Watkin.