On the third weekend in May, Lampe’s Black Oak Amphitheater will host a variety of local and world-class bands, all leading up to a performance by The Kentucky Headhunters.
As part of the two-day Ozark Mountain Rumble Rally on Friday May 20 and Saturday May 21, BOA is hosting a weekend full of motorcycles, vendors, food, entertainment and live music. On Friday nights, performances by local and regional bands such as Black Note, 5th Element, the Brenda Meyer Band and many more will be featured.
On Saturday, BOA will kick things off with performances from Switch. This. Up., Stillhouse, The Camancheros and Green Acres before The Georgia Thunderbolts took the stage that night to open The Kentucky Headhunters.
Currently featuring the vocal and instrumental talents of Richard Young, Greg Martin, Fred Young and Doug Phelps, the Kentucky Headhunters have a long and infamous history dating back to 1968.
When the band started, the group was called Itchy Brother and consisted of the two Young brothers and cousins Martin and Anthony Kenney. The band started inside a small old farmhouse owned by the Youngs’ grandmother.
“My grandmother, in 1968, she bought another 100 acres which joined us and added to the farm and had this quaint little farm that sat on a creek,” Richard said. “People immediately wanted to start renting her out and she didn’t want to deal with it at her age, so she had the brilliant idea of letting her two grandsons and two cousins move into the house to practice music. That way she could tell the neighbors, “Well, I really can’t rent it right now, because the boys are practicing their music there.” To make things work we put a sign outside and it said ‘Itchy Brothers Practice House’ on the sign.
In 1986, The Itchy Brothers became The Kentucky Headhunters when Kenney left the group and was replaced by Phelps. Richard shared over the years, many people have asked what tag or genre their music fits into.
“We listened and our favorite music was English rock. We loved the band Free and Cream – Eric Clapton’s old band – early Led Zeppelin stuff, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles first of course. Pretty much everything we listened to was English rock like Jethro Tull,” Richard said. “Even though we were into English rock, we were a rock band. We were a rock band then and still are. It just became more southern rock than it ever was back then.
Richard added that the influences for their music came from a place that even surprised him later in life; grow on the farm.
“When we moved in and started practicing stuff at home, Fred and Anthony were 11 and Greg and I were 13 and 14. We worked in the fields. At that time, all the farmers had joint farms. Some were white and some were African American on the farm,” Richard said. “I didn’t realize until the years went by, especially during the Headhunter years, those influences that we worked in those areas.
“Like you have a guy impersonating Johnny Cash or Hank Williams and Jerry Lee Lewis. A guy would try to sing the Beatles song and then you’d sing these great African-American gospel spirituals. All of that, we were taking all of that back then It was a great upbringing while we worked on the farm, so there was always a great connection between our style and the farm.
On October 15, 2021, the Headhunters released their 14th album titled “That’s A Fact Jack”, which Richard said came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In 2020 we had all the dates in the world that we wanted to play that year. We ended up only playing eight that year… What happened was that when it all happened in 2021 we also had new dates coming up for 2021. In February and March of last year we were supposed to play 14 or 15 shows in those months and that’s quite a bit for that time of year. ‘ year. Those dates started moving later in the year because the COVID restrictions were still in effect. So we’re going, ‘Oh my God. What are we going to do? Those dates all changed. We said, ‘We have to be a group.’ We’re used to being a band all the time. We just decided to go to the studio and make an album. That way we could be together as a band.
Richard added that it was important to him and his comrades that the group was always together.
“We are constantly touring. A lot of people go out and tour every two years or something. We are too close. We’ve been together for so many years,” Richard said. “You know, on a tourist bus, you have bunks stacked like on a train. The four of us sleep across from each other in the bunks. Two on top and two on each side. You can reach out and touch the person next to you or above you. My wife and I laughed, we’ve been married for 41 years and for the past 35 years I’ve slept next to or near my bandmates as much as I have my wife. It sounds strange, but it’s the truth.
Opening for The Kentucky Headhunter at Black Oak Amp in May will be The Georgia Thunderbolts; a group that Richard discovered and helps manage.
“We were at this concert in Georgia and these kids opened for us. What are the chances of that happening, but I’m sitting there with the bus window open in the back on the computer and all of a sudden these kids come in. I don’t often see the first acts” , said Richard. “And the man I remember thinking to myself, ‘We better turn up the steam tonight, because these kids are rocking. The singer opened his mouth and I just jumped up and ran out and watched the whole show. I asked them after they were done, ‘What are you going to do with that?’ They said, “Oh, we’re going to be lifers like all of you and Black Stone Cherry.” That said, I said, “OK, come over to Kentucky, let’s do an album and see what we can do with it.”
(More on the Georgia Thunderbolts will be featured in a future edition of the Branson Tri-Lakes News)
The Black Oak Amphitheater reopened in 2021 after being closed for nearly a decade. For 2022, the Stone County Hall has also announced performances for Hairball with special guest Stillhouse, Casey Danaher and Josh Abbott Band, TI Harris, Chingy, Ying Yang Twins, DJ Skribble, Skid Row, Warrant, Quiet Riot, Jon Pardi, Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias and more to come.
For more information on any of these shows or to make advance ticket reservations, visit blackoakamp.com.