Ed Bickert was born in Hochfeld, Manitoba on November 29th, 1932, and raised in Vernon, British Columbia. His early interest in guitar was in part influenced by his musical household (his mother and father played piano and guitar in country bands). He was self-taught, developing an interest in jazz harmony by studying and analyzing Stan Kenton records. Via radio broadcasts from the American West Coast, he heard and was influenced by Nat King Cole Trio guitarist Oscar Moore, Barney Kessel and Les Paul. In his early teens he gained experience by playing onstage with his parents.
In 1952 Ed moved to Toronto, working as a radio station engineer and playing after-hours jazz clubs on the side. Shy and retiring, he was slow to work himself into the Toronto jazz circuit, but by 1955 he was a regular club performer -- and in 1957, he made his first studio recording date, appearing on Moe Koffman's fluke hit single Swinging Shepherd Blues.