A considerable amount of King Crimson's history consists of the various personnel changes that have occurred within the group. Throughout its history, Robert Fripp has been the only consistent member, though he has expressed the fact that he does not consider himself the band's leader, necessarily. To him King Crimson "is a way of doing things," (http://www.progressiveears.com/frippbook/contents.htm) and the musical consistency that has persisted throughout the band's history, despite continuous rotation of its members, reflects this point of view.
Origins Robert Fripp and Michael Giles began discussing the formation of King Crimson in November of 1968, soon before the breakup of the short-lived and unsuccessful band Giles, Giles, and Fripp. The first musician to be added to the lineup was singer-guitarist Greg Lake[?], who would play bass and sing. Lyricist Peter Sinfield[?] and composer Ian McDonald[?] were soon recruited, and thus the first incarnation of King Crimson was born.
Early in January 1969, the group rehearsed for the first time. Over the course of the year, the first King Crimson album, In the Court of the Crimson King, emerged from the chaos. King Crimson went on tour through England, and later the United States, performing alongside many contemporary popular musicians and musical groups, including Iron Butterfly, Janis Joplin, and Fleetwood Mac. Tensions and musical differences within the band eventually reached a limit, however; Ian McDonald and Michael Giles left the band in December 1969 to pursue solo work. McDonald went on to be a founding member of Foreigner in 1976.
The 1970s King Crimson's lineup would fluctuate tremendously during the next few years. The remaining trio of Fripp, Sinfield, and Lake persevered for a short while, releasing the single Cat Food/Groon in March of 1970. During this time, material was being developed for King Crimson's second album, In the Wake of Poseidon. Woodwind player Mel Collins[?] came on board, and bassist Peter Giles[?] would appear on several tracks. Greg Lake departed in April to form Emerson, Lake & Palmer, leaving King Crimson without a vocalist until Gordon Haskell[?] took over singing, in addition to playing bass, for the band's third album, Lizard. Andy McCulloch[?] played drums for the album, with Jon Anderson of Yes appearing on one song. Haskell and McCulloch left just prior to the release of Lizard, leaving King Crimson in the unenviable position of being a rock band without a singer, bassist, or drummer.
Fripp began auditioning. Drummer Ian Wallace[?] and vocalist Boz Burrell[?] were selected, but after more than two dozen potential bassists had come and gone, Fripp decided to simply teach Boz to play bass. In the midst of the lengthy tour that followed, the new band released Islands in 1971. At the end of that year, King Crimson parted ways with long-time member and lyricist Peter Sinfield. The remaining members undertook a tour the following year, with the intention of disbanding afterwards. Recordings from this tour were later edited by Fripp to become the Earthbound album.
Shortly following the Earthbound tour, Fripp once again began looking for new members. The first to join was percussionist Jamie Muir[?], whom Fripp had been considering as a possible member for some time. Next came vocalist and bassist John Wetton[?], one of Fripp's college acquaintances. Wetton had been under consideration for the previous lineup of the band, but that proposition had fallen through. Now that King Crimson was starting over from scratch again, the opportunity was ripe. Yes drummer Bill Bruford[?] was next to sign up, a move which was deemed a poor career move by some. Bruford was choosing to leave Yes, a band with immense commercial potential, for King Crimson, a band with a history of instability and unpredictability. Bruford himself was more interested in artistic pursuits, and the framework of King Crimson appealed to that sensibility in him. Finally, violin and viola player David Cross[?] was selected to flesh out the sound of the new band. Rehearsals began in late 1972, and Larks' Tongues in Aspic was released early the following year, and the group spent the remainder of 1973 touring Britain, Europe, and America.
Muir departed the group early in 1973, and in the midst of the lengthy tour that followed, the remaining members began assembling material for their next album, Starless and Bible Black. By early 1974, the album was finished. Most of the album was actually recorded from gigs the band played in 1973, with only two tracks ("The Great Deceiver" and "Lament") being studio productions, a fact which emphasizes King Crimson's essentially live nature. Fripp never felt that recordings of any sort were adequate to capture the atmosphere and energy of a live performance. Another recording of live gigs, USA, was released soon afterwards. It was around this time that David Cross decided he had had enough, and left, leaving the remaining trio to record and release Red in mid-1974.
In some ways, Red was the end of an era for King Crimson. Fripp took a lengthy sabbatical following its release, and when the band did re-form in 1981, its lineup was to remain fairly consistent compared with previous years.
The 1980s Early in 1981, Robert Fripp and Bill Bruford began considering the formation of a new group, to be called Discipline. The two spent some time searching for a bassist, but had little success in recruiting one until Tony Levin[?] stopped by. Levin was well-known for his session work with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Peter Gabriel and others, and would have been one of Fripp's first choices had he known Levin was available. King Crimson had its bassist.
During this time, Fripp called up guitarist Adrian Belew, who was on tour with the Talking Heads at the time. Fripp had never worked with another guitarist in the same band, so the decision to seek a second guitarist was highly indicative of Fripp's desire to create a sound completely unlike King Crimson. Belew, for his part, was flattered. He would join immediately following his tour with the Talking Heads.
During rehearsals and initial recorded sessions in 1981, Fripp began suspecting that this new band really was King Crimson, despite his decision to call it Discipline. The other members concurred, and so King Crimson was re-born. A trilogy of albums was released by the group: Discipline, Beat, and Three of a Perfect Pair. Belew was responsible for the vocals, as well as almost all of the lyrics on the three albums, which broke the overall trend for King Crimson in that the songs with lyrics outnumbered instrumental pieces by two to one.
Note: Further history of King Crimson from 1981 to the present is still needed
Other members of note: