Jim Lauderdale was born April 11, 1957, in Statesville, N.C. His father was a minister and his mother was a music teacher and choir director. He played drums in the school band and after graduation decided to become a solo performer in New York. He impressed record producer Pete Anderson while in the Los Angeles production of Pump Boys and Dinettes and was recorded for the compilation A Town South of Bakersfield, Volume 2. He then sang backing vocals for various artists including Carlene Carter and Dwight Yoakam.
He scored big in Nashville in the 1990s after writing hits for George Strait, the Dixie Chicks, Patty Loveless, Mark Chesnutt and many others. His own '90s recordings for Warner Bros., Atlantic and RCA garnered much critical acclaim and a loyal cult following, and his move to the independent Dualtone label gave him even more creative freedom and the wide-ranging audience he desired.
Besides his two solo albums for Dualtone, Lauderdale also drew acclaim for his pair of bluegrass albums with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. The first, I Feel Like Singing Today, pre-dated Stanley's celebrated national christening as part of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. The second, Lost in the Lonesome Pines, won a 2002 Grammy. In 2003, Lauderdale worked with the wide-open grooves of the roots/jam band Donna the Buffalo for the album Wait Til Spring. An album he wrote with longtime Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, Headed for the Hills, arrived in 2004.
Expanding his interests into the theatrical world, Lauderdale in 2001 portrayed George Jones in a musical version of Tammy Wynette's life at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. He won three Americana Music Awards, including entertainer of the year in 2002 and toured as Mary Chapin Carpenter's opening act in 2004.