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’ 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.
Richards met Jagger on a train as Jagger was headed to classes at the London School of Economics. The mail-order rhythm & bluesalbums from Chess Records by Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters that Jagger was carrying revealed a mutual interest and led to a renewal of their friendship. Along with mutual friend Dick Taylor, Jagger was singing in an amateur band: “Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys”, which Richards soon joined. The Blues Boys folded when Brian Jones, after sharing thoughts on their joint interest in the blues music, invited Mick and Keith to the Bricklayers Arms pub, where they then met Ian Stewart.
In mid-1962 Richards had left Sidcup Art College to devote himself to music and moved into a London flat with Jagger and Jones. His parents divorced about the same time, resulting in his staying close to his mother and remaining estranged from his father until 1982 [Richards, Keith (2010). Life].
After the Rolling Stones signed to Decca Records in 1963 their band manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, dropped the s from Richards’ surname believing “Keith Richard” in his words “looked more pop”. In the early 1970s Richards re-established the s in his surname.