Keith Richards is the only child of Bertrand Richards and Doris Richards (née Dupree). He was born at Livingston Hospital in Dartford, Kent. His father was a factory worker who was injured in World War II during the Normandy invasion.
Richards' paternal grandparents were Socialists and civic leaders whose family originated from Wales. His maternal grandfather, Augustus Theodore Dupree, who toured Britain with a jazz big band, Gus Dupree and his Boys, fostered Richards' interest in guitar.
Richards' mother bought him his first guitar and he played at home, listening to recordings by Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and others. His father, on the other hand, disparaged his son's musical enthusiasm. One of Richards's first guitar heroes was Scotty Moore.
Richards attended Wentworth Primary School with Mick Jagger and was his neighbour until 1954, when the family moved. From 1955 to 1959 he attended Dartford Technical High School for Boys. Recruited by Dartford Tech's choirmaster, R. W. Jake Clare, Richards sang in a trio of boy sopranos at, among other occasions, Westminster Abbey for Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1959 Richards was expelled from Dartford Tech for truancy, and transferred to Sidcup Art College. At Sidcup he was diverted from his studies proper and devoted more time to playing guitar with other students in the boys' room. At this point Richards had learned most of Chuck Berry's solos.