Charles was born on February 20, 1963, in Leeds, Alabama, the United States, to the family of Frank Barkley and Charcey Glenn. At birth, he weighed only six pounds and suffered from anemia to such a degree that he required a complete blood transfusion at six weeks. When the boy took his first steps, Frank Barkley abandoned the family.
Charcey Glenn then went on to remarry, but when Charles was 11, his stepfather died in an accident. Barkley was raised by his mother and grandmother.