Lori King – Holding a Bass and Holding Her Own

by Stephen Pitalo


Lori King did not grow up on bluegrass.

“When I met [husband and bandmate] Joe, he told me he played in a bluegrass band and I had no idea what that was,” Lori explained, “so I asked him if that was like Hee Haw, and he said, well, sort of!”

But after just a few bluegrass festivals across Iowa in the 1990s, Lori was hooked on the sound.

“Joe took me to my first bluegrass festivals that fall in Knoxville and then in Drakesville where we currently live now. I was hooked instantly on the music. I had always sung but never played an instrument. When we attended a festival in Ft Madison IA in 1994 the running joke was ‘here, hold this — an upright bass — I will be right back.’ And then the bass player wouldn’t return! Joe showed me three chords to play on the bass in the key of G, and I’ve been playing ever since!”

After five years of playing and singing at local music festivals and jams, she joined a group in 1999 and became a driving force behind Bluegrass Addiction.

“I wanted to be in that band from the first time I heard them,” King said. “I loved the harmonies and energy of the band!”

lori king the bluegrass standard

King formed Junction 63 about five years ago through a natural evolution in her career. “When a couple of band members left the Bluegrass Addiction band, it just seemed like a time to reformat and focus some on more original songs,” she said. “With an ever-changing industry, band members often leave. Fortunately, we’ve been blessed to have some longstanding members. Kevin Amburgey on mandolin from Ashland MO has been with us since 2014. Mark Hargrove from Ames, IA has been with us since 2015 on banjo, and Kyle Murphy, a previous ETSU student who now lives in Ames, has been with us two years on the fiddle.”

Her powerhouse vocals mixed with her tone and style on her 1967 Kay upright bass provides a solid foundation for the band’s signature sound. Lori has garnered prestigious accolades like 2015 Midwest SPBGMA Bass Fiddle Player and Traditional Female Vocalist of the Year, and 2016 Female Vocalist of the Year. Lori also shows her love for the genre as the co-founder and executive director for the Bluegrass Music Association of Iowa. Even though she came to it late, she’s as big a fan of bluegrass as you’ll ever find.



Lori King the bluegrass standard
lori king bluegrass standard
lori Kind bluegrass standard


“I love how bluegrass music uses the harmonic voices and instruments to tell the story,” she explained. “Also, you meet lots of people who become your close friends, and it seems much like a family reunion when you see each other at the festivals and events!”

Ironically, King is very upfront about her own struggles with addiction in the past and said that the reflection involved in her recovery has fueled her creativity through truth and faith. She serves as an inspiration for those with similar struggles.

“I’m a recovering drug addict, and I used methamphetamine in my 20s. I’ve been clean since March 15, 1992. I’m not ashamed of my past and I’ve worked very hard to become the person I am today. I still have struggles, and I fight the demons of low self-esteem and mental health issues at times, but I face them head-on, and deal with it as it comes. At times, I can be very emotional, and I have written songs that I truly believe came from somewhere inside the struggles and my process of working through all of that.”

Lori loves to play.

It shows on stage and in any room she occupies. One becomes charmed by her infectious personality, especially during performance.

“I have several songs I love to sing,” said King of her favorites she currently performs, “but ‘The Gospel According to Luke,’ has such a great message, and ‘Timber, I’m Falling In Love’ is a country song I heard Patty Loveless do in the 90s that I love, but we do it fast and bluegrass style.”

To learn more about Lori King, visit Junction 63



One thought on “Lori King – Holding a Bass and Holding Her Own

  • January 7, 2020 at 8:34 am

    Lori, I am so thankful for you sharing this about how you came to bluegrass and your life story. The way you sing and play and how knowledgeable you are about Bluegrass music, I had assumed you had been playing in a band all your life and grew up with music.

    Your life story is truly the outpouring of how amazing Gods grace is and how much his love changes us into a vessel that not only changes your life but blesses everyone around you. I am thankful that you found Bluegrass music and have shared it with me. It has richly blessed my husband and I. We look foreword to enjoying the music and jamming with others. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do. We are truly honored and blessed to be a part of what you have started.


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