AWB was formed in 1971 by Alan Gorrie and Malcolm "Molly" Duncan, with Onnie McIntyre, Hamish Stuart, Roger Ball and Robbie McIntosh joining them in the original line-up. Duncan and Ball, affectionately known as the Dundee Horns, studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art (now part of the University of Dundee), and were previously members of Mogul Thrash. Gorrie and McIntyre had been members of Forever More.
The band's breakthrough was a support slot at Eric Clapton's comeback concert in 1973. MCA Records released their debut album, Show Your Hand, which sold poorly. Bruce McCaskill, who was Clapton's tour manager, liked the band's music and agreed to manage them. He borrowed money to take them to the U.S. and to promote them. McCaskill had many contacts from his days with Clapton and managed to get Atlantic Records to sign them. The band relocated to New York, signed to Atlantic and released the follow-up, AWB, better known as "The White Album". This album was the first of many with renowned producer Arif Mardin, and reached #1 in the U.S. Hot 100 chart.
McIntosh died of a heroin overdose on 23 September 1974. (Gorrie also overdosed but Cher kept him conscious until medical help arrived.) McIntosh was replaced by Steve Ferrone (of Bloodstone, and, like McIntosh, previously with Brian Auger's Oblivion Express).
In 1975, the single "Pick Up The Pieces" from the album AWB also reached #1 in the U. S. chart. The track is probably their best known today. The band followed up with LPs Cut the Cake (1975) and Soul Searching (1976), both big sellers and yielding further Top 40 singles. Cut the Cake was dedicated by the surviving band members to Robbie McIntosh's memory. Their next LP, Benny & Us, was a collaboration with soul legend Ben E. King.
After several more albums, AWB's audience and sales dwindled. Their 1980 disco hit "Let's Go Round Again" (UK #12), was covered in the late 1990s by Louise. The group disbanded by 1982. Ferrone went on to work with Duran Duran whilst Hamish Stuart joined Paul McCartney's touring group. In 1985 Gorrie released a solo album, Sleepless Nights. Gorrie, McIntyre, and Ball reunited in 1989 to record Aftershock, but Ball left the band shortly after its release. Eliot Lewis co-wrote with Gorrie on this album and joined the band, replacing lead singer Hamish Stuart.
Average White Band has continued recording (Soul Tattoo 1997, Face to Face, 1999) and touring since. When Eliot Lewis left AWB in September 2002 to pursue other musical opportunities, he was replaced by Klyde Jones (see ). Their most recent album release in April 2003 was entitled Living in Colour.
AWB's line-up then included Alan Gorrie (bass, lead vocals), Klyde Jones (guitar, keyboard, lead vocals), Onnie McIntyre (guitar, vocals), Fred Vigdor (sax, keyboard, vocals) and Brian Dunne (drums). Gorrie and McIntyre are the only remaining original members of the band.
Brian Dunne was replaced by Rocky Bryant as drummer for the 2006 tour.