Alison Krauss was born July 23, 1971, in Decatur, Illinois, but grew up in Champaign, Illinois. Encouraged by her mother, Alison began playing the violin when she was five years old, taking classical lessons. She soon tired of classical violin and began performing country and bluegrass. At the age of eight, she began entering talent contests and two years later, she had her own band. In 1983, when she was 12 years old, she won the Illinois State Fiddle Championship and the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass in America named her the Most Promising Fiddler in the Midwest. At thirteen she won the Walnut Valley Festival Fiddle Championship.
In 1985, Krauss made her recording debut on an album, playing on a record made by her brother Viktor, Jim Hoiles, and Bruce Weiss. The album was called Different Strokes. She performed with John Pennell, bassist and songwriter, from the age of twelve in a band called "Silver Rail". Pennell later formed Union Station, and Krauss joined at his invitation. Pennell wrote some of her early work including the popular "Every Time You Say Goodbye." Later that year she signed to Rounder Records, and in 1987, at sixteen, her debut album featuring Union Station as a backing group, 'Too Late to Cry' was released. In 1989, Krauss and Union Station released 'Two Highways', which was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Recording. Although the album didn't win the award, her next album, 1990's 'I've Got That Old Feeling', did.