A featured member of Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys in the 1980s, King, who was raised in Virginia's Carroll County, grew up listening to bluegrass. His father, Jim King, had appeared on Roanoke television with Don Reno and Red Smiley as tenor vocalist and guitarist for the Country Cousins, and, with his uncle, Joe Edd King, had played with the late Ted Lundy of the Southern Mountain Boys in the 1960s.
Following a stint in the Marines, King launched his musical career in 1979. His recording debut came on the long-titled album Stanley Brothers Classics with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys and Introducing James King in 1985. His second album, Reunion with Ralph Stanley Featuring George Shuffler and James King, was released three years later.
King's 1985 self-titled debut solo outing was followed by It's a Cold Cold World, released in 1989 and reissued as Webco Classics, Volume Two in 1996. While both albums showcased his crystal-clear lead vocals, neither featured the high-quality instrumental accompaniment of his later work.
After signing with Rounder Records, King's career was propelled into overdrive. These Old Pictures -- which featured members of the Johnson Mountain Boys (Dudley Cornell, Tom Adams and David McLaughlin) and the Lynn Morris Band (Marshall Wilborn and Tim Smith), plus ex-Nashville Bluegrass Band mandolinist Mike Compton -- was named Breakthrough Album of the Year by Bluegrass Unlimited and led to King being nominated as Emerging Artist of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 1995. King's fourth solo album, Lonesome and Then Some, featured many of the same players.
In 1997, King joined with Cornell, Wilborn, Glen Duncan, Joe Mullins and Don Rigsby to form the bluegrass supergroup Longview. The solo Bed by the Window followed a year later. ~ Craig Harris, Rovi