MUSHY'S MOOCHINGS: An Interview With Richard Young - The Kentucky Headhunters

Saturday, March 01, 2014

An Interview With Richard Young - The Kentucky Headhunters

Way back in 1989, just after the group Itchy Brother changed their name to The Kentucky Headhunters, Richard Young and company booked and played a small club in Roane County, Tennessee called "Rock And Country".  The club was up near the Rockwood Airport, on Airport Road, Highway 299.

Richard, the rhythm guitar player for the Headhunters, remembers the date and what a good reception the band received back then.  He had no idea the club had burned sometime in the early 90's, but suffice it to say, he and the band is looking forward to their return engagement!

The band is booked at the Princess Theatre at 8PM on March 8th, and everyone, me included, can hardly wait to hear them!  Since then, the band's sound has undergone changes, but had recently returned to their Southern Rock, R&B, and blues roots.  For me, that makes the upcoming engagement exciting.

Both the Headhunters and The Cathouse Prophets have that "Lynyrd Skynyrd"/"Charlie Daniels" sound.  It's a Southern sound that I have researched and grown to love!

I called Richard Thursday at his home near Edmonton, KY, catching him trying to track down some financial issues that involved someone in New York City.  He, like many of us, miss the old days when many records were kept in "hands-on" brains, and not computers.  We talked about how kids these days are so lost in computers, their phones, and "social media" that they no longer know how to communicate.  We coined the term "UNSOCIAL MEDIA" while discussing the lost art of face-to-face communication, to describe today's electronic culture.  People today don't know what they are missing and that they are killing our culture with all this Facebooking, texting, and Instagramming!

Anyway, we finally got back to talking about "the music" and the band's trip to Harriman, and their brand of Southern Rock, R&B, and blues fusion music.

The Kentucky Headhunters' latest album, Dixie Lullabies (2011), released through the Red Dirt Company label, was written and recorded in the "Shack"/"Practice House", which was their grandmother's home at one time.  The old house, with no water, heat, insulation, phones, etc. sits on the remaining 700 acre homestead near Edmonton, KY.  Richard and Fred Young have about 700 head of cattle there, and at times money is tight.  Recently they sold 100 head just to buy enough feed to get the rest of the cows through the rest of this cold winter.  So, you can see they have problems just like us!

Believe it or not, the old house serves as a real practice house for the band, and on this latest album it was an actual studio where the "Lullabies" was recorded.  Richard said a thermometer in the house, at times, read 13-degrees!  It's a testament to the group's love of old amps and guitars!  They stayed in tune and sounded great on the album!

"Over the years we have put up record albums and posters, Bob Dylan and such, to keep out the wind!  I think they are worth more than the house!"

You can hear and see more about the "Practice House" by watching this video -

Yes, the boys are what the sound like...ordinary Southern country folk!  Just like us!

There are no "put on airs" with these guys.  They are what they are and all they are interested in is playing good music.  There was a time they thought they wanted to reach for the sky, the top ten, and be as commercial as other country and rock groups.  However, they have come to see the light and are satisfied and comfortable with making good music over quantity.   They like living on the farm, living within their means, and being true to their love of music!

I got the feeling, while talking on the phone with Richard, that two things brought the band (called Itchy Brother then) back to earth.  One, was the 1977 crash of the C-47 carrying Ronnie Van Zant and the Lynyrd Skynyrd band, whom they knew well.  The other was the death of John Henry Bonham, an English musician and songwriter, best known as the drummer of Led Zeppelin.

The crash made the band turn introspective, and they wondered if fame was what they were really wanted.  They came to final grips with this question after Bonham died in 1980.  John's death was the final straw that kept the Itchy Brother band from becoming Swan Song Records' first American band, had they ever got to produce a song on the label.  This record label, launched by the English rock band Led Zeppelin, stopped in 1983.

I think these days Richard is more proud of his son, John Fred Young (drums, backing vocals), and his band "Black Cherry Stone", than of any success he and the Headhunters could achieve.  

I could tell he was smiling over the phone as he talked about his son and the fact that "Stay", a song written by Joey Moi and the rock band Black Stone Cherry, originally recorded on their 2011 album Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, was taken to #1 status by American country music duo Florida Georgia Line; who covered the song on their 2012 album Here's to the Good Times. It was released in October 2013 as the album's fourth single and, as of December 18, 2013, it's sold 547,000 copies in the United States.

You can get a since of their history by watching the above video, which explains their journey to "Headhunters" much better than I could ever write it.

Suffice it to say, the group is happier going for the heart of the music than trying to reach the top 10.  Richard promises that at the Princess "we we will connect at a personable level to the audience."  We are so looking forward to it!   

"If we could, we would make our living in old theaters…that would be the place, or at bars with large seating somewhere!"

"We will be putting out new songs to try them out on the Princess audience...we will make the Princess our "Practice House" on the road!  That's our first gig of the year and we want everyone, including us, to remember Saturday night, March 8th!"

Richard apologized to me, just before hanging up, for having to run, but he reminded me that it was going to be 14 degrees again in Kentucky last night, and he have "heffers" to feed!  Prioities, you know!

As Richard wrote in a song once, we have to keep on rocking:


(Richard Young, Fred Young, Vernon Dale Grissom, John Fred Young, Anthony Kenney, Doug Phelps, Greg Martin)

So rock on,

Let your heart be handy with a song.

Don't ever let go

Of those dreams that you hold

As the river of life rolls on,

Baby rock on

Tickets are available now online at, or at the Rocky Top General Store or The Harriman Jewelry Exchange, or by calling 865-882-8867!

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