Born in Birmingham, he was the son of Albert Munrow, a Birmingham University lecturer and physical education instructor who wrote a book on the subject, and was so highly respected that a sports centre was named after him. David Munrow himself attended King Edward's School, Birmingham, until 1960. He excelled academically. In 1960 David Munrow went to Peru, teaching English under the British Council Overseas Voluntary Scheme. He returned with Bolivian flutes and other obscure instruments.