Born João Gilberto do Prado Pereira de Oliveira on June 10, 1931, in the town of Juázeiro in the northeastern state of Bahia, Brazil. His father was a wealthy merchant who insisted that all of his seven children receive an education. Gilberto defied his father's wishes however, devoting himself to music after receiving a guitar from his godfather at the age of 14.
By the age of 18, Gilberto had moved to Salvador, the capital of Bahia, where he sought to earn a living as a radio performer. While never finding major success as a solo artist on radio, he gained the attention of a member of the vocal group Garotos da Lua (Boys from the Moon), who performed regularly on Radio Tupi in Rio de Janeiro, and he was invited to join the group