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The Kentucky Headhunters Biography

The Kentucky Headhunters come, naturally enough, from Kentucky. Ricky Lee Phelps (8 October 1953, Edmonton, Kentucky, USA; lead vocal) and his brother, Doug (b. 15 December 1960, Edmonton, Kentucky, USA), played in various groups around Kentucky before meeting Greg Martin (b. 31 March 1954, Louisville, Kentucky, USA; lead guitar) in 1984. He introduced them to his cousins, the brothers Richard Young (b. 27 January 1955, Glasgow, Kentucky, USA; rhythm guitar) and Fred Young (b. 8 July 1958, Glasgow, Kentucky, USA; bass). Previously, the Young brothers and Martin had been in a group together, Itchy Brother, which was almost signed to Led Zeppelin’s own label Swan Song. Since then, Fred Young had played Patsy Cline’s drummer in the 1985 biopic, Sweet Dreams. This time, taking their name from Muddy Waters’ band, the Headchoppers, the five musicians financed their own album, Pink, in 1988, and the tracks were subsequently released by Mercury Records, with additional material, on Pickin’ On Nashville. Their first US country hit was with a revival of Bill Monroe’s ‘Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine’. This was followed by their anthemic tribute to a 74-year-old marbles champion, Dumas Walker, and then by a revival of Don Gibson’s ‘Oh Lonesome Me’.

The Kentucky Headhunters, like Lynyrd Skynyrd before them, is a controversial band that brings heavy metal influences to country music, and vice versa: on 1991’s Electric Barnyard, they thrash through ‘The Ballad Of Davy Crockett’. The decision of the two Phelps brothers to quit the Headhunters in 1992 delayed the release of their third album, Rave On. Replaced by Anthony Kenney (b. 8 October 1953, Glasgow, Kentucky, USA) and Mark Orr (b. 16 November 1949, Charlotte, Michigan, USA) the band concentrated on the heavier side of their sound. Doug Phelps rejoined in 1996 before the release of Stompin’ Grounds. Further personnel changes occurred before the band moved into a rock/soul groove with Soul in 2003.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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