Don Cherry was born in Oklahoma City, OK in 1936 and raised in Los Angeles, where he first began to play the trumpet and later piano. According to Cherry, his upbringing had everything to do with his interest in music:
"Yeah, well I was fortunate to have such great parents…because they've always been around music. My Father was a bartender, and he was very much into the music of the swing period. That whole groove of music and ballrooms and dance and what it meant in the late 30's and up into the 40s. So I was raised around all that type of music. But what was happening after especially moving to Watts, what was happening in our neighborhood, there was musicians…Dexter Gordon, Wardell Grey, Sonny Criss, all these people that were from the neighborhood…and what was happening in rhythm and blues…"
Don cut his teeth on bebop, like most young musicians of his generation