Melvin Jerome Blank was born on May 30, 1908 to Jewish parents Frederick and Eva Blank in San Francisco. Later on, his family would move to Portland, Oregon. Even as a kid, "Mel" would gain a fascination for voices and dialect and by age 10, he started practicing these different voices. He would later state that he changed his last name from "Blank" to "Blanc" at age 16 when a teacher told him that he would amount to nothing, just like his name.
Mel dropped out of school at age 17 and divided his time between leading an orchestra (making him the youngest conductor in the country at that time) and performing in vaudeville shows in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California.