Southern rock icons The Kentucky Headhunters will be rolling into town on March 13 for a show at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.
Show time is 7:30 p.m.
The concert was rescheduled from earlier dates due to the pandemic. All tickets previously purchased will be valid for the upcoming show, NPAC officials note.
In a recent telephone interview, Headhunters’ guitarist and vocalist Richard Young said he’s happy to finally be back performing in front of live audiences again. “Like everyone else, whether it was music or whatever, we all got the wind knocked out of us in 2020,” Young said.
“We only played about eight shows in 2020. Many shows were moved to 2021, but when we got ready to do those shows, they got moved again. This Greeneville date is one that had to be moved twice,” he continued. “But now, we’re set, and we’re thrilled to finally be coming to town.”
The origins of the American country rock band began in 1968 when Young and his brother, Fred, along with cousins Greg Martin and Anthony Kenny, formed a group they named Itchy Brother. As the years progressed, the band evolved and was eventually renamed the Kentucky Headhunters in 1986 after brothers Doug and Ricky Lee Phelps joined.
In late 1989, the band released “Pickin’ On Nashville,” which became an instant hit, propelling the Headhunters to stardom. During its 30-year history, the band has released eight studio albums, three compilations, and 23 singles, including such hits as “Dumas Walker” and their rockin’ covers of Don Gibson’s “Oh Lonesome Me” and Bill Monroe’s “Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine.” Their success earned them a Grammy award, the Country Music Association “Album of the Year” award, two CMA “Vocal Group of the Year” awards, two Top 10 charting albums, and four consecutive Top 40 hits.
While the band has gone through some lineup changes through the years, one thing has remained the same, and that’s their dedication to southern rock music. Along with Richard Young, the band’s current lineup includes his brother Fred Young, their cousin Greg Martin and longtime bandmate, Doug Phelps.
During the pandemic, instead of sitting at home and twiddling their thumbs, Young said they decided to make good use of their time off the road and get back in the studio.
“We went into the studio with no plans. We had pieces of songs and ideas, but we hadn’t been together in months because of COVID, so our first time getting together was walking into that studio,” Young said. “It was exciting, but it was also a little nerve-wracking and scary at the same time.”
This group of musicians has been together so long, though, that they have got music-making down to a science. They did, however, mix things up a bit on this newest album.
“Normally, Doug (Phelps) and I will do the lead vocals, but we did something a little different this time,” he said. “Since we had no game plan going in, we just said, ‘Everybody do what you want to do, and let’s all think of songs and sing them.’ This gave Fred and Greg a chance to exercise their vocal chops on some tunes.
The result was their first album in five years, titled “That’s a Fact Jack!” which Young called “a really, really cool album!”
Released this past October, the 12-song, blues-rock album has produced two singles, the title track “That’s a Fact Jack!” and “How Could I?” Both songs are receiving substantial airplay on Sirius XM radio, Young said.
The new album follows up the Headhunters’ 2019 release “At the Ramblin’ Man Fair,” which was recorded live during the band’s first-ever tour of the UK. Young said he hadn’t been on an airplane in 34 years before the band traveled across the pond for the UK shows. His son, John Fred Young, ultimately convinced him to make the trip. “He told me, ‘It’s a whole new world over there!” Young said.
He was highly pleased to see how well received the Kentucky Headhunters were in the UK. The band has been playing shows in the UK for the past three out of five years, and they are planning on a return in the coming months. “People love the Headhunters over there,” Young said.
In addition to his work with his own band, Young also participates in managing his son’s group Black Stone Cherry and southern rock newcomers, the Georgia Thunderbolts.
“After my son’s band, I didn’t think I’d find another band that I would want to get that deeply involved in,” Young said. “But then I met the Thunderbolts, and it all changed. I first heard them when they opened for us four years ago in Summerville, Ga. We were fortunate to get them signed with the same music label that Black Stone Cherry is on, Mascot Label Group,” he added.
Young stays busy not only in the music business but also on his farm back home in Kentucky. (Where he was headed right after the interview to put up some cows that had gotten out of their pasture.) “I’m 67 years old, and my wife said the other day, ‘You know, you do as much as six people can do in a day, Richard! I don’t know how you do it. It makes me tired just watching you!’”
This good ol’ boy from Edmonton, Ky., wouldn’t have it any other way, though, adding with a laugh, “We’re just trudgin’ right along!”
Tickets to the upcoming show are $30 orchestra level, $25 mezzanine level, and $20 balcony level. For more information, visit npacgreeneville.com or call the NPAC box office at 423-638-1679.