Charlie Watts was born to Charles Watts, a lorry driver for a precursor of British Rail and his wife Lilian (née Eaves) at University College Hospital, London, and raised (along with his sister Linda) in Islington and then Kingsbury. He attended Tylers Croft Secondary Modern School from 1952 to 1956; as a schoolboy, he displayed a talent for art, cricket and football.
Watts's parents gave him his first drum kit in 1955; he was interested in jazz, and would practise drumming along with jazz records he collected. After completing secondary school, he enrolled at Harrow Art School (now the University of Westminster), which he attended until 1960. After leaving school, Watts worked as a graphic designer for an advertising company, and also played drums occasionally with local bands in coffee shops and clubs. In 1961 he met Alexis Korner, who invited him to join his band, Blues Incorporated. At that time Watts was on his way to a sojourn working as a graphic designer in Denmark, but he accepted Korner's offer when he returned to London in February 1962.
Watts played regularly with Blues Incorporated as well as working at the advertising firm of Charles, Hobson, and Grey. It was in mid-1962 that Watts first met Brian Jones, Ian "Stu" Stewart, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who also frequented the London rhythm and blues clubs; but it wasn't until January 1963 that Watts finally agreed to join the Rolling Stones