Jones was born in 1933, on the South Side of Chicago, to Sarah Frances (née Wells) (1903–1999) and Quincy Delightt Jones Sr (1895–1971). The elder Jones was a semi-pro baseball player and carpenter from Kentucky; his paternal grandmother was an ex-slave in Louisville. They had gone to Chicago as part of the Great Migration out of the South. Sarah was a bank officer and apartment complex manager. Jones later discovered that his paternal grandfather, Jones, was Welsh. Quincy had a younger brother, Lloyd, who later became an engineer for the Seattle television station KOMO-TV.
His parents divorced soon after his younger brother, Lloyd, was born, and the Jones boys were raised by their father, a carpenter, and his new wife. She had three children of her own, and three more with Quincy Jones, Sr. His birth mother, Sarah Jones, was in and out of mental health facilities, and it wasn't until his adult life that Quincy was able to enjoy a close relationship with her. When Jones was 10 years old his family moved to Bremerton, Washington. The Seattle suburb was alive with World War II sailors on their way to the Pacific; the nightlife and its music were the backdrop for Quincy's early teens. Three years later he met a 15-year-old musician named Ray Charles. The two formed a combo and played in local clubs and weddings, and soon Jones was composing and arranging for the group.