History of BMAI
During our ventures on the road, I met Uncle Billy Dunbar. Throughout various conversations we had discussed the decline in venues and opportunities for bluegrass artists to perform in Iowa. In 2008 we decided that we would set out on the task to resolve this problem. Billy mentioned that if he was 30 years younger he would start a bluegrass association and I quickly stated that if he would help me get it going that I would do it. In early 2009 we recruited people to help us with our venture and with the assistance of our spouses began building Bluegrass Music Association of Iowa (BMAI). Brenda Smith was eager to join us on our quest and is the Assistant Executive Director for BMAI. With her help we gained our 501c3 non-profit status in January 2010, established our by-laws, and we were officially on our way. We published our First Annual BMAI Band and Festival guide in 2009 and collected membership dues throughout the year. By 2010 we had banked a few bucks and decided to seek out a location for our first festival. We opted to check out the new State owned Honey Creek Resort on Lake Rathbun. We shared our idea with the management, and they were open to giving it a shot. It was a perfect fit and location for us and we are currently preparing for the 9th Annual BMAI Honey Creek Resort Bluegrass Festival on October 25-27, 2018. Over the past several years Joe and I have worked diligently and remained committed to BMAI while maintaining full time jobs outside the industry. In 2012 BMAI received funds to pay a full time Executive Director. With Lori at the helm, Joe by her side, and the assistance of an active supportive volunteer board…these funds have provided BMAI with the opportunity to build the organization to what it is today. BMAI currently hosts events in Des Moines, Bloomfield, Drakesville, Knoxville, Central City, Hampton, Marshalltown, and Honey Creek Resort in Moravia.
BMAI is also a licensed affiliate of the Play It Forward program. Play it Forward is an instrument lending library for Iowa youth age 8-21 that are interested in learning a bluegrass instrument. This is a very small recap and bio of the last 20 years so topics are brief. Joe and I still perform with our band Lori King & Junction 63 PLUS moonlight in a country band as well. We still love bluegrass music and hope that our efforts will pay off and help to carry on bluegrass music in Iowa for many years. Lori has formed many great friendships and connections in the industry through these efforts, and in 2014 was selected to participate in Leadership Bluegrass through the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA). BMAI has also gained many sponsors and volunteers to help in their efforts and although BMAI is a fairly new organization, in the last 10 years it has become recognized as an active part in the bluegrass community and industry for Iowa, as well as the United States. Membership is open to anyone and information regarding joining BMAI, dates for upcoming events, to make a tax deductible contribution, and general information can be found on the website.
I met Joe in July 1993. He told me at that time he played in a bluegrass band. I have to tell you I didn’t know what bluegrass music was at the time. So I asked he is bluegrass like “Hee Haw”? He laughed and stated that it was acoustic music that involved a guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and upright bass. Joe’s mom indicates that he had a guitar in his hand by the time he was 2 years old. I attended my first bluegrass festival with Joe in August that year in Knoxville, Iowa. I knew after that weekend that I would be playing and singing bluegrass someday. The first year Joe and I were together he took me to several bluegrass festivals around Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Minnesota. I had always sung growing up but didn’t play an instrument. Then one night during a bluegrass jam session in Fort Madison, Iowa, they needed a bass player. At the time there was this running joke with bass players …”Here hold this bass…I will be right back.”And then they wouldn’t return for several hours. In the meantime, Joe showed me the G, C, and D chords on the bass and said “play these three chords and you can play the 1000s of songs.”This would have been sometime in the spring of 1994. The next several years were spent attending local bluegrass festivals and we bought our first camper…a pop-up type. Although it was nice, you could say it was a tent on wheels and we pulled it with my 1989 Ford T-Bird. We were able to lay the front seat down and haul the bass. It was quite an adventure to say the least. I know many experienced a great deal of laughter at our expense. Eventually, we upgraded to a small fifth wheel and got a truck to pull it with. We have since got a nicer fifth wheel and spend many weeks and weekends each year travelling from festival to festival across the Midwest. My first experience on stage was Memorial Day Weekend festival in Unionville, Iowa, in either 1995 or 96. I was so scared, and they had the microphone turned up all the way and you could barely hear me through the speakers. I sang a Highway 101 song called Somewhere Tonight. Now those of you that know me now probably can’t believe that since now at times I rarely need a microphone. In 1997 or so I began filling in with Bluegrass Addiction the band that Joe formed with Scott Amos, Gary Fisher and his cousin Penney Davis in 1991. By 1999 I was playing bass full-time, singing lead and harmony vocals in the band, as well serving as the band manager and booking agent. Bluegrass Addiction in this configuration spent the next 12 years together traveling the Midwest and performing at various local and regional events. We even had the opportunity to be the opening act for Country Star John Anderson at Sundown Lake near Moravia, Iowa, and right next to the Bristol Speedway in Bristol, TN. During this time I have learned a great deal about the music business and had some of the best times in my life. I’m grateful to my husband Joe and the guys for all that they taught me and attribute much of my experience to working with them.