E. J. Decker grew up the youngest in a musical household: his mother played piano; his father was a big band singer who sang briefly with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. His dad often played Big Band records at home, teaching E. J. the unique qualities of the various bands, and how they swung.
He also taught his number-three son how to sing at an early age. At the same time, E. J.'s older brothers were playing '50s and '60s rock, R&B and jazz without stop. In his teens, E. J. caught many of the great artists playing live in New York area clubs and concerts: Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Leonard Cohen, Oscar Brown, Jr., Jimmy Smith, Alberta Hunter, Leon Russell, Richie Havens, Tom Rush, the original Dave Brubeck Qrt., Genya Ravan, Tom Paxton, the Jefferson Airplane and Sammy Davis, Jr. He learned much from all of them, stole much from most of them—and began finding his own voice.