Roy Eldridge was born on January 30, 1911, in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. He lived with his mother, father, and brother in a building his father converted into a restaurant and an inn for railroad workers. During the summer time, he made money working for his father's construction business. At an early age, Roy possessed a natural music talent, but he had no desire to become a musician. Roy's mother was a piano player, and she taught her son to play by ear. By the time he was five years old, his brother, who played alto-sax; clarinet; drums; and violin, had started to bring him around to being a musician. At about this time, he began learning to play the drums. .
At the age of six, Roy played his first gig with his brothers band. He played the drums, as he did not even play the trumpet yet. At age seven, Roy joined his church's band. As they already had a drummer, he needed to learn a different instrument. He decided to learn the bugle. His brother saw his natural brass talent and talked him into playing the trumpet, saying he would have a better time, because the bugle can only do certain notes and the trumpet would allow him to play melodies. Roy started taking lessons from P. M. Williams. Until this point, his life had been fairly normal and running smoothly, but at the age of eleven, it took a turn for the worst, his mother died. From this point on, all Roy did was practice his trumpet. He would wake up early and play until he was tired, he would even stay home from school some days just so he could play his trumpet. .
Roy played his first gig at the age of six. From then on, he regularly played with not only his brothers band, but with his church's band, and in a band with his friends. He played with many dance bands including the Elite Serenaders. The Elite Serenaders had a certain trumpet player by the name of Rex Stewart. Roy idoled Rex not only for his excellent playing, but for his persona as well.