John Betsch was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1945 and presently lives in Paris. His mother was a church organist and pianist and his sister a dramatic soprano singer. John began playing drums at age nine and started playing professionally at 18 while a student at Fisk University. He continued his studies at the Berklee School of Music and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst under Max Roach and Archie Shepp; John also taught at U. Mass. and in state prison education programs.