Top 10 Kentucky Headhunters Songs

Kentucky Headhunters Songs

The top 10 songs from The Kentucky Headhunters focus on the Southern country rock band’s best music produced since their humble beginnings in 1968. Founded by the Young brothers, Richard and Fred, they teamed with Anthony Kenney as their bass guitarist. At first, the group named themselves Itchy Brother, a name they kept until 1982. It wasn’t until 1986 the band changed its name to The Kentucky Headhunters. This came about after adding Ricky Lee Phelps as their lead singer and his brother, Doug as their new bass guitarist.

Kentucky Run

In 1989, The Kentucky Headhunters officially made its debut with Pickin’ on Nashville. It produced four top forty hits on the country singles chart, giving enough fuel for the boys from the Bluegrass State to record and release a second album in 1991. With the Recording Industry Association of America and Music Canada, the album became certified double platinum. It also earned a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. With the Country Music Association, it won its Album of the Year Award. The Kentucky Headhunters were also awarded Vocal Group of the Year. With the Academy of Country Music, the group earned an award for Best New Vocal Group.

Released in 1991, Electric Barnyard didn’t quite measure up to commercial expectations but still earned a gold certification from Music Canada and the RIAA. It also earned The Kentucky Headhunters their second Vocal Group of the Year win with the CMA. Unfortunately, the album didn’t receive as much airplay as Pickin’ on Nashville so it wasn’t as financially successful as its predecessor. After this, the Phelps brothers opted out of The Kentucky Headhunters to form their own band, Brother Phelps. Their departure left an opening for Anthony Kenney to join the Youngs a second time while Mark S. Orr signed up as their new lead singer. Together, the new lineup of The Kentucky Headhunters recorded and released their third studio album, Rave On!!. It, along with The Best of The Kentucky Headhunters: Still Pickin’ compilation album, was released in 1993.

When The Kentucky Headhunters and Mercury Records ended their working relationship, Orr left the lineup and was replaced in 1996 by the returning Doug Phelps. He was the lead vocalist for Stompin’ Grounds, Songs from the Grass String Ranch, Soul, and Big Boss Man. He also served as lead vocalist for the group’s second compilation album, Flying Under the Radar. Going into 2011, Kenney left the band’s lineup a second time and Phelps took his place on bass for the 2011 album, Dixie Lullabies.

In total, as The Kentucky Headhunters, they have recorded and released ten studio albums, seven compilation albums, and two collaborative albums. Of the twenty-seven singles released, twelve of them reached the music charts as hits. They also have fifteen music videos added to their music portfolio. The influential sounds that inspired the boys from Kentucky came from the musical genres of blues, country, heavy metal, and rock. Most of their songs were deemed rowdy classics, loaded with heavy guitar. As lead vocalist, Ricky Lee Phelps played a key role that highlighted the explosive debut The Kentucky Headhunters made as a band in 1989.

What made The Kentucky Headhunters a major fan favorite was the unique blend of styles, which were poured into their original music. This was also reflected in the songs they covered that were originally recorded by legends such as Waylon Jennings, Bill Monroe, and Carl Perkins. As far as the country music industry was concerned during the 1990s, The Kentucky Headhunters were somewhat unorthodox due to their rougher approach to the genre and their Southern-style image. During an era where contemporary country music often dominated the mainstream audience, The Kentucky Headhunters stuck out as a somewhat wilder bunch who went by their own set of rules. They still live by them today, still wowing the crowd with a brand of music that suggests the boys from the Bluegrass State are not quite ready yet for retirement.

Top 10 The Kentucky Headhunters Songs

#10 – Dixie Fried

Originally written and performed by Carl Perkins in 1956, “Dixie Fried” was a song The Kentucky Headhunters recorded and released for their album, Rave On!!!. What was a number ten hit for Perkins on the US Billboard Country Songs chart peaked at number seventy-one for the boys from Kentucky in 1993. This rockabilly swinger, as performed by The Kentucky Headhunters, became a fan favorite in honky tonk bars, as well as during live concert performances.

#9 – Too Much to Lose

Although The Kentucky Headhunters were known for their bluesy country-rock music style, they never jumped into ballads until “Too Much to Lose.” The lead vocalist for this song was Doug Phelps after he returned to the group’s lineup in 1995. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it peaked at number sixty-six. It came from the album Songs from the Grass String Ranch, which was recorded and released in 2000. After feeling the need to jump back into writing and performing original music, it was a refreshing return to their crowd-pleasing bluesy Southern country rock charm. “Too Much to Lose,” however, was a great change of pace that made it the standout favorite among the fans. This was a beautiful love song most fans will agree Phelps let out such a powerful performance. Backed by Fred and Richard Young, Anthony Kenney, and Gred Martin, “Too Much to Lose” was a bittersweet gem that focused on the vulnerabilities of love and all the memories that come with it.

#8 – Let’s Work Together

In 1962, “Let’s Work Together” was first released as a bluesy single by Wilbert Harrison. After it was further developed as a song, Harrison released it again in 1969. It was the newer version of these two that became a hit before it was later covered by Canned Heat in 1970. For them, it was also a big hit, as was Bryan Ferry’s version in 1976. The country rock flair The Kentucky Headhunters poured into their version of “Let’s Work Together” was featured in the 1991 movie, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. While the movie didn’t do so well at the box office, one of the highlights was the performance the country-rock group from the Bluegrass State put into Harrison’s motivational classic.

#7- The Ballad of Davy Crockett

Originally written and performed by the songwriting team of George Bruns and Thomas W. Blackburn, “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” made its premiere on October 27, 1954, for the Disneyland miniseries, Davy Crockett. It was first performed by The Wellingtons. Since then, the first three recorded versions of this song became big hits on various US Billboard magazine charts. The version performed by Bill Hayes performed the best as it peaked as high as number one. Fess Parker’s version was a number six hit, and Tennessee Ernie Ford’s recording peaked at number four. Mac Wiseman’s version was a number ten hit when it was released in 1955.

This cult classic was recorded many times over by scores of recording artists, including Louis Armstrong. The Western Writers of America recognized “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” as one of the top Western songs of all time. The version The Kentucky Headhunters performed in 1991 became a number forty-nine hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and a number eighty-two hit on the Canadian Country Tracks chart. Their version came from the album, Electric Barnyard. This was the follow-up recording behind the very successful debut album, Pickin’ on Nashville.

#6 – Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line

1992’s “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line” was a single that earned The Kentucky Headhunters a 1993 Grammy Award nomination for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it became a modest hit at number sixty. Despite the song’s chart performance, it became one of the major fan favorites that rightfully earned recognition at the Grammies.

The album, Electic Barnyard, may not have been a commercial success but it also received a Grammy Award nomination in 1992 for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The original version of “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line” was recorded by Waylon Jennings in 1968. It became a chart-topping hit for Jennings, as well as a cult classic among country music fans. When The Kentucky Headhunters released their version, it was a fan favorite on the radio stations for several weeks.

#5 – With Body and Soul

From Electric Barnyard, “With Body and Soul” was a single that was released by The Kentucky Headhunters in 1991. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it became a number fifty-six hit. In Canada, it was even more popular at number thirty on its Country Tracks chart. The blend of the blues, country, and rock styles made their performance of this song distinctly theirs while at the same time holding fast to the melodic gem this Bill Monroe classic is best known for.

#4 – Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine

Released in 1989, “Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine” was a song The Kentucky Headhunters covered that peaked as high as number twenty-five on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. It was the first of four singles released from the group’s debut album, Pickin’ on Nashville that would become a hit. Among their fans, this is an all-time favorite and has become one of their signature songs. “Walk Softly on the Heart of Mine” still encourages fans to get up and move as the mix of blues, country, and rock continues to stay on top as a favorite. This was one of a few Bill Monroe classics The Kentucky Headhunters covered as he was one of their main influences that sparked their own careers. His 1970 version was first titled “Walk Softly on My Heart” before it was corrected to “Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine.”

#3 – Oh Lonesome Me

The highest-charting song for The Kentucky Headhunters was “Oh Lonesome Me.” Released in 1990, it was their cover version of Don Gibson’s original. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it peaked as high as number eight. On the Canadian Country Tracks chart, it became a number nineteen hit. Gibson’s version was recorded in late 1957, then released in early 1958 and it became a number-seven hit for him on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song covered the details of a man’s breakup as he is too heartbroken to move on.

#2 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Angel

“Rock ‘n’ Roll Angel” was a song recorded and released by The Kentucky Headhunters in 1990. It was the fourth single from the album Pickin’ on Nashville. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it became a number twenty-three hit. On the Canadian Country Tracks chart, it peaked as high as number thirty. The song was written by Richard Young, the band’s founder and lead guitarist. Although it didn’t chart as high as their biggest hit, “Oh Lonesome Me,” this became one of their signature songs that would erupt the live audience time and time again. What made this song so appealing was the mix of country and rock with a Southern-style recipe only The Kentucky Headhunters could pull off.

#1 – Dumas Walker

Released as a single in January 1990, “Dumas Walker” was the second single released by The Kentucky Headhunters from their debut album, Pickin’ on Nashville. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it became a number fifteen hit. It peaked as high as number fifty-four on the Canadian Country Tracks chart. “Dumas Walker” was about a favorite retail hangout that served up traditional food classics and alcohol. In the song, The Kentucky Headhunters extended invites to grab a burger, some fries, and some beer. There was also a description of the diner’s owner as the “marble king” as it was noted “Dumas” from Moss, Tennessee, was a marbles champion.

Rigged as a fictional location, “Dumas Walker” was actually a song written by all five members of The Kentucky Headhunters that reflected what life was like for them in the Bluegrass State. “Dumas Walker” remains a cult favorite among the fans of The Kentucky Headhunters, especially during live concert performances. The love of good times, electrified by great country music with Southern charm, was exactly what “Dumas Walker” served up as a hit. This is also The Kentucky Headhunters’ signature song, widely recognized by their fans.

Feature Photo: Brad U. Wheeler, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Top 10 Kentucky Headhunters Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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