Kentucky HeadHunters Welcome 1991

By Jean Metcalfe

Five, four, three, two, one . . . .

The Kentucky HeadHunters were in the middle of their sixth song when the year 1991 made its appearance at Louisville Gardens. "Happy New Year," lead singer Ricky Lee Phelps shouted after the countdown and the song were finished. "Everybody should be kissin' about now," he continued, as the other HeadHunters provided the mandatory "Auld Lang Syne." Glancing at fellow band member Richard Young, the lanky singer teased, "I'm not gonna kiss you, Richard." He twirled a towel over his head like a lasso and they all tossed confetti into the revved-up crowd.

Ricky Lee and Doug Phelps at Louisville Gardens. Phoot by Jean Metcalfe

This was The Kentucky HeadHunters -- live and lively -- in Louisville! (That same evening the KHH were helping Dick Clark usher in the new year on the small screen via a special taped earlier on the West Coast.)

The inimitable band had opened their live performance with a spirited version of "Honky Tonk Blues" then kept up the momentum with "Rag Top," "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line," "Some Folks Like to Steal" and "Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine" from their platinum album Pickin' On Nashville.

Greg Martin, lead guitarist, didn't hesitate when he was encouraged to "tell us about your day." His guitar was an eloquent speaker! And the other band members pitched in with their own individual special talents.

Drummer Fred Young's ability shone brighter than the white lights that bathed him when his fellow band members left him alone on the stage for an electrifying drum solo. Wearing his trademark coonskin hat (or had he shed it at that point?) Richard's little brother demonstrated the style that earned him a drummer position with Sylvia's tour band back in the early Eighties. ("Did you see the 'Metcalfe County' on the drums? he asked me when we were introduced after the performance was over.)

Doug Phelps, Ricky's younger brother, was much in evidence providing guitar and vocal accompaniment for the rowdy, award-winning band. Throwing his head back and tossing his tightly-curled blonde mane as he performed, the sensual guitar player earned his share of the screams that the KHH elicited from the women in the audience.

The Kentucky Headhunters at Louisville Gardens

If anyone in the crowd was still seated when the HeadHunters lit into "Dumas Walker," the group's signature song brought them to their feet. There was dancing in the back and a whole lotta shakin' goin' on in the arena. But the onstage performers were the rowdiest in the building.

"Where do you get all that energy?" I asked Ricky Phelps after the mega-energetic performance. "I don't know," he said, "but it's gone now."

Delbert McClinton and Carlene Carter, in separate sets, capably opened the evening's entertainment. Each performed their old and their new stuff, and held the attention of an audience that had come to party with the HeadHunters.

In a phone call from Greg Martin on January 18, I learned that the HeadHunters have completed recording their second album in Nashville and expect mixdown and fine tuning to be completed in time for shipment in March. Greg said they've shot an interesting cover for the thirteen-song album, titled Another Bone to Pick, which features eight originals and five cover tunes. (The number of songs and the album title are correct as of this writing, but there is a possibility this could change.)

The HeadHunters have received two Grammy-award nominations: Best New Artist and Best Country Performance By A Duo or Group with Vocal. They will be performing on the awards show which will be telecast live at 8:00 p.m. on February 20 from New York's Radio City Music Hall on CBS-TV.