Tal Farlow was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, and was brought up in a musical atmosphere. His father played several musical instruments, including some of the fretted ones, while the piano in the house was played by his mother and his sister, who became a fine classical pianist. Tal trained as a signwriter and continued with this work throughout his life in parallel with his music.
He listened to the radio and heard outside broadcasts of the big bands of the day, bands like Artie Shaw, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman. It was then that he first heard Charlie Christian playing and started to copy the solos