Born in Missoula, MT, Roger Nichols and his parents moved to Santa Monica, CA, when he was a one-year-old. His household brimmed with music when he was growing up. His dad was a journalism graduate and a professional photographer who played sax in local jazz bands. His mother was a music major and a classical pianist. When Nichols started grade school, he picked up the violin, continuing his violin and classical studies throughout grammar and high school. His attention turned to basketball and Nichols forsook violin for the hoops but played guitar on the side.