Lemmy was born on 24 December 1945 in the Burslem area of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. When he was three months old, his father, an ex-Royal Air Force chaplain and concert pianist, separated from his mother. His mother and grandmother moved to nearby Newcastle-under-Lyme, then to Madeley. When Lemmy was 10, his mother married former George L Willis (Tool Maker) who already had two older children from a previous marriage, Patricia and Tony, with whom Lemmy did not get along.
The family moved to a farm in the Welsh town of Benllech, Anglesey, with Lemmy later commenting that "funnily enough, being the only English kid among 700 Welsh ones didn't make for the happiest time, but it was interesting from an anthropological point of view". He attended Sir Thomas Jones' School in Amlwch, where he was nicknamed "Lemmy". It was later suggested by some that the name originated from the phrase "lemmy [lend me] a quid 'til Friday" because of his alleged habit of borrowing money from people to play slot machines, although Lemmy himself said that he did not know the origin of the name. He soon started to show an interest in rock and roll music, girls, and horses.
At school, Lemmy noticed a pupil who had brought a guitar to school and had been "surrounded by chicks". His mother had a guitar, which he then took to school, even though he could not play, and was himself surrounded by girls. By the time he left school, his family had moved to Conwy. Whilst there, he worked at menial jobs, including one at the local Hotpoint electric appliance factory, while also playing guitar for local bands such as the Sundowners and spending time at a horse-riding school. Lemmy saw the Beatles perform at the Cavern Club when he was sixteen, and then learned to play along on guitar to their first album Please Please Me. He also admired the sarcastic attitude of the group, particularly that of John Lennon.