The Kentucky Headhunters were formed in their first incarnation in 1968, when brothers Fred and Richard Young began playing music with their cousins Greg Martin and Anthony Kenney. Mark Orr would later join them as well.
In those days, the band was called the Itchy Brothers, and they played together informally for about 13 years.
They went their separate ways for a while, but in 1985 Martin wanted to reform the Itchy Brothers.
However, Kenney declined to join the team.
Martin thought of Doug Phelps, who he met on tour with Ronnie McDowell, and when Phelps joined, they called the new project the Kentucky Headhunters.
“We were determined to create a whole new sound just like Itchy Brothers had in the seventies,” Phelps said. “I knew there was true passion from the first rehearsal and the fact that the other three were relatives, and had spent their whole lives playing music together, made it like a fast-drying glue. For me, it was magic from day one.”
The Headhunters now include the Young brothers, Greg Martin, Phelps and his brother, Ricky Lee Phelps.
Their blend of honky tonk, blues and Southern rock appealed to fans of both rock and country.
They played twice weekly on “The Chitlin’ Show” on WLOC, a radio station in Munfordville, Ky.
They would eventually send an eight-song demo out to Mercury, which then signed the group. That demo tape became their first album, “Pickin’ on Nashville,” which was released in 1989.
“Dumas Walker” from that album reached No. 15 in the spring of 1990, and “Oh, Lonesome Me,” the Headhunters’ biggest hit, reached No. 6.
Their second album, “Electric Barnyard,” released in 1991, didn’t live up to the acclaim of the first one, and the Phelps brothers left the group to form their own duo, and the Headhunters brought back their Itchy Brothers friends Kenney and Orr.
The new Kentucky Headhunters released “Rave On!” in 1993, which veered more toward bluesy Southern rock. They released a collaboration with Johnnie Johnson, “That’ll Work,” that same year.
“Recording and playing with Johnnie Johnson has been one of the highlights of our musical journey,” said Richard Young. “He was like your old uncle, laid-back and cool offstage, but when he sat down at the piano, he was in charge and anyone who ever played with him became a better musician.”
In 1996, Doug Phelps rejoined the band as lead vocalist after the departure of Orr.
In 1997, the band released “Stompin’ Grounds,” which brought the band back to its country roots.
“Soul,” released in 2003, may have been the band’s best work since “Pickin’ on Nashville” and “That’ll Work.”
In 2005, the band reworked some classics from Sony’s catalog, and put out the result as the album “Big Boss Man.”
“We had a lot of fun messing with all those old songs, and it was great working with Tom [Long, of Sony],” said Fred Young. “[He] was the first to discover our talents back in the seventies.”
In 2010, the Kentucky Headhunters formed their own record label, “Practice House Records.”
The Headhunters never stopped putting out music.
Their most recent studio album, “On Safari,” was released in 2016.
The band will be playing as a part of the main show in the Tennessee River Jam lineup at 4 p.m. Saturday at Paris Landing State Park.