Born in 1930, Don Grooms was raised in Cherokee, North Carolina. He came from a family with Cherokee and Appalachian heritage. As a child, he played a cornstalk fiddle, a cigar-box banjo, and a $3 Silvertone guitar. At age 10, Grooms began playing for square dances and at 14 he belonged to a dance band that played pop tunes. Grooms became a professional journalist and moved to Florida to teach journalism at the University of Florida. While in Gainesville, Grooms was influenced by Will McLean, which motivated him to return to songwriting and playing guitar. He became a fixture at the Florida Folk Festival, where he performed on stage alongside Florida Folk Troubadours Gamble Rogers, Jim Billie and Will McLean. Grooms received the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1996.