John Richard Deacon was born on 19 August 1951 in Leicester to Arthur Henry and Lilian Molly Deacon (née Perkins). His father worked at the Norwich Union insurance company and in 1960 the family moved to the dormitory town of Oadby. Deacon was known to friends and his bandmates as 'Deaks' or 'Deaky' and attended Linden Junior School in Leicester, Gartree High School and Beauchamp Grammar School in Oadby. He became interested in electronics, reading magazines on the subject and building small devices, including the modification of a reel-to-reel tape deck to record music directly from the radio. He studied well and achieved 8 GCE O level and 3 A level passes, all at grade A. He particularly enjoyed soul music.
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