Gilmour was born in Cambridge, England. His father, Douglas Gilmour, was a senior lecturer in zoology at the University of Cambridge and his mother, Sylvia (née Wilson), was a teacher and film editor who raised her family at Grantchester Meadows, later immortalised by a Roger Waters song on Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma.Gilmour and his siblings were encouraged by their parents in their musical abilities. Gilmour has a younger brother, Peter, who has been a guitarist for a slightly longer time than Gilmour. Gilmour attended The Perse School on Hills Road, Cambridge, which he “didn’t enjoy” but where he met future Pink Floyd guitarist and vocalist Syd Barrett, along with bassist and vocalist Roger Waters who attended Cambridgeshire High School for Boys, also situated on Hills Road. In 1954, Gilmour bought his first single, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”. At age 13, Gilmour was given his first guitar, a Tatay, by his neighbour, Gilmour started learning how to play using a book and record set by Pete Seeger.
In September 1962, he studied modern languages to A-Level and, along with Barrett, went to Cambridge Technical College. Despite not finishing the languages course, Gilmour would eventually become a fluent French speaker. Gilmour and Barrett spent their lunchtime practising guitar together, Barrett would often refer to Gilmour as “Fred”. They were not yet bandmates, however, and Gilmour started playing in the bandJokers Wild in 1962, which Gilmour left in 1967. In August 1965, Gilmour busked around Spain and St. Tropez in France with some friends, one of them being Barrett. However, they were not very successful, living virtually a hand-to-mouth existence. In July 1992, Gilmour stated in an interview with Nicky Horne on BBC radio that he ended up being treated for malnutrition in a hospital. The pair were arrested for buskingBeatles songs, later the two trekked to Paris, camping outside the city for the course of a week and visiting one of the landmarks, the Louvre. In 1967, Jokers Wild played a residency in France, with Gilmour returning to London for equipment supplies. During this visit, he went to see The Pink Floyd recording See Emily Play in Chelsea, and was shocked to find that Barrett seemed not to recognise him. He returned permanently to England later that year.