The brothers attended William Grimshaw Secondary Modern School (later merged with Tollington Grammar School to become Fortismere School), where they formed a band, the Ray Davies Quartet, with Ray's friend and classmate Pete Quaife and Quaife's friend John Start. Their debut at a school dance was well received, which encouraged the group to play at local pubs and bars. The band went through a series of lead vocalists, including Rod Stewart, another student at William Grimshaw, who performed with the group at least once in early 1962. He then formed his own group, Rod Stewart and the Moonrakers, which became a local rival to the Ray Davies Quartet.
In late 1962, Ray Davies left home to study at Hornsey College of Art. He pursued interests in subjects such as film, sketching, theatre and music, including jazz and blues. When Blues Incorporated played at the college in December, he asked advice from Alexis Korner, who recommended Giorgio Gomelsky, the former Yardbirds manager, who put Davies in touch with the Soho-based Dave Hunt Band, a professional group of musicians who played jazz and R&B. A few days after the Ray Davies Quartet supported Cyril Stapleton at the Lyceum Ballroom on New Years Eve, Davies, while still remaining in the Quartet, joined the Dave Hunt Band which briefly included Charlie Watts on drums. In February 1963, Davies left Dave Hunt to join the Hamilton King Band (also known as the Blues Messengers), which had Peter Bardens as pianist. At the end of the spring term he left Hornsey College with a view to study film at the Central School of Art and Design, around this time the Quartet changed their name to the Ramrods. In June, the Hamilton King Band broke up, though the Ramrods kept going, performing under several other names, including the Pete Quaife Band, and the Bo-Weevils, before (temporarily) settling on the Ravens. The fledgling group hired two managers, Grenville Collins and Robert Wace, and in late 1963 former pop singer Larry Page became their third manager. American record producer Shel Talmy began working with the band, and the Beatles' promoter, Arthur Howes, was retained to schedule the Ravens' live shows. The group unsuccessfully auditioned for various record labels until early 1964, when Talmy secured them a contract with Pye Records. During this period they had acquired a new drummer, Mickey Willet; however, Willet left the band shortly before they signed to Pye. The Ravens invited Mick Avory to replace him after seeing an advertisement Avory had placed in Melody Maker. Avory had a background in jazz drumming and had played one gig with the fledgling Rolling Stones.