With his 1993 solo album These Old Pictures, James King was established as a top-notch bluegrass vocalist. The album, however, was only the latest step in a musical career that had begun 14 years before.
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.