Bert Jansch was born in Glasgow in 1943, but brought up in Edinburgh, where he attended Pennywell Primary School and Ainsley Park Secondary School. As a teenager, he acquired a guitar and started visiting a local folk club run by Roy Guest. There, he met Archie Fisher and Jill Doyle, who introduced him to the music of Big Bill Broonzy, Pete Seeger, Brownie McGhee? and Woody Guthrie.
After a stint as a nurseryman, Jansch became a full-time musician and spent two years playing one-night stands in British folk clubs. This was a musical apprenticeship which exposed him to a range of influences, including Martin Carthy and Ian Campbell, but especially Anne Briggs, from whom he learnt some of the songs (such as Blackwaterside and Reynardine) that would later feature strongly in his recording career.
Between 1963 and 1965, he travelled alone around Europe and beyond, hitch-hiking from place to place and living on earnings from busking and casual musical performances in bars and cafes. He was eventually repatriated to Britain after catching dysentery in Tangiers.