Ríos was born in La Cartuja, a neighborhood of Granada. The youngest of seven children, he went to work in a local bar at the age of fifteen after little formal education. His interest in rock and roll led him to participate in a song contest at Cenicienta 60 radio station, in which he and his friends won a prize for singing the Paul Anka song "You Are My Destiny".
With his mother's permission (his father died a few months earlier), he moved to Madrid in 1961 at the age of sixteen, where he recorded his first four songs. In popular circles he became known as Mike Ríos, the King of Twist.
As Mike Ríos he obtained some television popularity during the first half of the 1960s. In 1964 he resumed using his real name which cost him the support of his group, Los Relámpagos (the Lightning). He made his first incursion into cinema with a movie titled Dos chicas locas, locas (Two Crazy Girls).