Dave Riley was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on March 18, 1949. His parents moved to Chicago when he was a small child, leaving Riley and four siblings in the care of his grandparents. Riley’s grandparents owned cotton fields and he worked in them. Riley started playing the guitar at age nine but didn’t get serious about the guitar until he met up with his parents in Chicago in 1961. Riley’s father was a preacher in the Church of God in Christ. When the rest of the family moved to Chicago, they started a family band called “The Riley Singers,” Riley says, “My father started training us, he and my Uncle Sam, to sing gospel music. And they used to whoop you back then and make you sing,” Riley said.