James King was born Sept. 9, 1958, in Martinsville, Va., and grew up in Carroll County -- one of the most fertile breeding grounds for bluegrass and old-time musicians. James' father, Jim, and his uncle, Joe Edd, were both musicians of note. As James entered his teens, he began to take the music seriously too, particularly the music of his fellow Virginians, the Stanley Brothers. One of James' closest mentors was Ted Lundy, whose raw and heartfelt brand of bluegrass exerted a particularly strong influence on his music. Following a stint in the Marine Corps, King relocated to Wilmington, Del., where he started a band with Lundy's sons, T.J. and Bobby.
The Lundys introduced King to legendary bluegrass deejay Ray Davis, who paired King with Ralph Stanley for two mid-'80s releases, Stanley Brothers Classics and Reunion (also with George Shuffler), on his Wango label. In 1988, King released his first record under his own name, James King Sings Cold, Cold World. In the 1990s, Dudley Connell of the Johnson Mountain Boys brought King to the attention of Rounder's Ken Irwin. Irwin brought together Connell and a band of bluegrass all-stars to back up King on 1994's These Old Pictures and 1995's Lonesome and Then Some. King began to tour steadily, gradually assembling the James King Band. The group was named emerging artists of the year by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) in 1997. 1998's Bed by the Window was the recording debut of the James King Band, and its gripping, bittersweet title track -- about a man in a nursing home with a vivid imagination -- was nominated for IBMA's 1999 song of the year award.
King is also a member of the bluegrass supergroup Longview, along with Connell, Don Rigsby, Joe Mullins, Glen Duncan and Marshall Wilborn. Their self-titled 1997 debut was named recorded event of the year by the IBMA. The second Longview album, High Lonesome, arrived in 1999, followed by Lessons in Stone in 2002.
King released 30 Years of Farming in 2002. The album featured the James King Band as the supporting instrumentalists, with a potent blend of classic bluegrass, hardcore country and contemporary songcraft. Including the country classics "Saginaw, Michigan" and "Carroll Country Accident," King released The Bluegrass Storyteller in 2005.