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The Kentucky Headhunters

A Short Story and Biography in the Words of The Kentucky HeadHunters.....

Once upon a time, in a deep and dark forest, in the Bluegrass state of Kentucky, not far from the village of Edmonton, stood a psychedelic shack where the only rock and roll band in Metcalfe County rehearsed.

The year was 1968, and the band was called Itchy Brother. The shack was really a farmhouse now known as the infamous Practice House. And the deep and dark forest was a place on Richard and Fred Young's family farm.

Together, with cousins Anthony Kenney and Greg Martin, armed with a pickup- truck load of amps, drums, and guitars, and a stack of American and English rock records, they set out to conquer the world by creating their own brand of rock and roll.

As the years went by, they made good on their promise to each other, and the record companies came. First, from Cincinnati, then Atlanta and Macon, Georgia, California, New York, and England, but something always stopped them from leaving the rock club circuit and becoming a national recording act. Presidential elections, plane crashes, the death of a record executive and disco, but most of all, their ages. The train hauling the heyday of Southern rock had come and gone. Itchy Brother got caught in the changing of the guard. They never got to ride the train, but they never gave up.

In the early 80s, we started to hang out in Nashville. Because it wasn't known as one of the rock and roll cities, we had always avoided it like the plague. Our only bout with Nashville was a TV show called Young Country, said Richard Young. Itchy Brother played Robert Johnson's Crossroads on the show in 1970 and though it was fun. "It opened our eyes and pointed our hearts in a different direction," he recalls.

Nashville was only 85 miles from Edmonton, but it seemed a million miles from where we started. Greg, then Fred, later took jobs as sidemen where their Southern rock skills proved to be handy and exciting to those acts who wanted to follow in the footsteps of Charlie Daniels and Hank Williams, Jr. Richard took a different route by hanging around writing houses. In 1981, with the help of their longtime friend and manager, Mitchell Fox, the boys were signed as writers to Acuff/Rose Publishing Company. Nashville didn't know it, but there was a roots movement starting to happen, and the "No Depression Era" was just over the hill. "It was during this time that we learned a lot about the music business and that Nashville was really only three streets wide," said Fred Young.

In 1986, Greg introduced Richard and Fred to Doug Phelps. Prior to this, the plan had been to record an Itchy Brother album and go for it again, but Anthony declined. Doug Phelps was asked to join in Anthony's place.

We couldn't see using the Itchy Brother name without Anthony. At the time, I was reading a book called Deep Blues by Robert Palmer. It spoke about the head chopping ritual and the fact that Muddy Waters band was nicknamed the Headhunters. I told the other guys about the story and it struck a nerve with all of us, said Greg Martin. The HeadHunters started rehearsing in March of 1986 in Greg's basement, then moved to the Practice House when the weather warmed up.

"We were determined to create a whole new sound just like Itchy Brother had in the 70s. I knew there was a true passion from the first rehearsal and the fact that the other three were relatives, and had spent their whole lives playing together, made it like a fast-drying glue. For me, it was magic from day one," said Doug Phelps. The mid-to-late 80s were very special. If you go back and look at the musical diversity going on, especially the roots and college music scene, even country music was allowing things to happen. Their guards were down. This spilled over into the local scene around here. Bowling Green, KY, Louisville, and Nashville were all hopping, as well as the rest of the country. This had a huge impact on us and helped fuel the formation of the HeadHunters, observed Greg.

"We are who we are and that's what makes us what we have become. From our life experiences and how we approach and interpret music is how we became a band that tells real life stories. We are a band of many styles: rock, blues, country, jazz, bluegrass, rockabilly, and other roots music. That is the foundation of our sound. Johnnie Johnson once told me "Music has no color. If I had to color the HeadHunters, I'd color us music with a feeling. says Fred.
"It started to gel from the first rehearsal. When you can't put a label on it, even when you create it, you know you've got something special," says Richard. Doug had a brother who also loved music. Ricky Phelps was a wandering soul, West Coast-type folkie who had a knack for bluegrass and a love of the Beatles. "He had moved to Nashville to try his hand as a country songwriter/performer, and like the rest of us, wasn't having much luck. I suggested he should ride up to Kentucky with me and jam with our band, the HeadHunters, for kicks," says Doug.
"You know, Doug and Ricky had never really had a chance to sing together in a band. When he came up and jammed with us the first time and we put those brother harmonies together with our rock and roll music, the room literally went neon," observed Richard.

"Ricky joined the band, and the very next month, we had a great opportunity presented to us to record in Acuff/Rose''s Hickory Records Studio. They were literally dismantling the studio around us, but we still managed to record a demo of Walk Softly, Dumas Walker and Oh Lonesome Me, the latter being in recognition of all the help Wesley Rose had been to Richard over the years. After that, we started playing more and more gigs locally, but it was really our live radio broadcast, The Chitlin' Show, on WLOC in Munfordville, KY, and the Practice House that brought it all together," remembers Greg.

In the earlier part of 1988, the HeadHunters met a very interesting fellow by the name of Jonathan D. W. Lyle. He was a huge blues music fan and fell in love with the HeadHunters music. He had a history of helping struggling bands, and ended up giving us $4,500 to go into the studio and record our music. We booked time at the Sound Shop with Mike Bradley and had just enough money to record for three days. We recorded eight tracks and called it Pickin' On Nashville, Doug remembers.

In late 1988, after much coaxing from Tom Long at ASCAP and song publisher Larry Shell, the HeadHunters agreed to do a record company showcase at Douglas Corner, a local Nashville hangout.

"Lee Roy Parnell was showcasing that night and we were a last minute tag on. After Lee Roy played, we sat up and kicked off with Walk Softly on this Heart of Mine. It was like someone had said there's a bomb in this place! The room cleared out in about two minutes, except for the sound man, waitresses, Tom, Larry, Harold Shedd and a few hangers-on," remembers Richard. "Lee Roy later told us that when he heard us that night, he thought, 'Oh my God, Heavy Metal Bluegrass!'" Greg recalls. Harold was the President of Mercury Records and had a reputation and success record for taking chances on the unlikely. He called us the next day and said we may be cooking hamburgers next year, but I've got to try this. The HeadHunters signed with Mercury in July of 1989. We added the Kentucky part of our name at this point, because Herbie Hancock was already using it as a stand alone.

Pickin' On Nashville came out in October 1989. It blew up like an atom bomb, and changed our lives forever. The rest is history. Well, almost, says Richard. After the release of the HeadHunters' second album Electric Barnyard, all hell broke loose. On June 2, 1992, Doug and Ricky Phelps left to start a duo career. Longtime friend and cousin Anthony Kenney came to their rescue to play bass, and buddy Mark Orr was recruited for vocals. "It felt good to have Anthony back in the band, and we were proud to have a great blues rock singer like Mark Orr," say Fred, Richard, and Greg.

Mark should have been one of those great Southern rock singers of the early 70s, but he missed the boat because of Vietnam. "When we were listening to the Beatles White Album in the Practice House, Mark was fighting on Hamburger Hill with the 101st Airborne Division," says Fred.

During this time, the Kentucky HeadHunters returned to their blues-rock roots. They released two albums in 1993. The first entitled Rave On, on Mercury, and the critically acclaimed blues record That'll Work on Elektra-Nonesuch, with legendary blues pianist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Johnnie Johnson.

"Recording and playing with Johnnie Johnson has been one of the highlights of our musical journey. 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." said Richard Young.

In 1994 and 1995, there were a lot of changes in store for the HeadHunters. Mark Orr left the band, Harold Shedd left Mercury, Luke Lewis came in as president and, during this time, Mercury released a greatest hits package called Still Pickin.

"When Mark left, I called the Phelps boys and asked if they would like to make another go of it. You gotta love Ricky. He said "!*?^* yeah! Let's change the name and start all over!" Now the HeadHunters have big balls, but I don't think anyone (including Doug) wanted to risk losing the HeadHunters brand," says Richard.

In the end, it was Doug who came back. He has and always will be our friend, band mate, and a team player. Ricky will always be our friend, and we love him for who he is. In 1996, the HeadHunters were signed by Joe Galante at BNA in Nashville after hearing what they had been up to since Doug's return. "Joe had always liked the HeadHunters and he had us record a song for Roy Roger's last album early on. We will never forget him for that opportunity," said Fred.

The BNA record was called Stompin' Grounds. It was a trek back to the HeadHunters more country roots. Joe heard the record in his office and signed us on the spot. To set it up at radio, he and Connie Bradley at ASCAP got us on the New Faces Show. In 1989, we had blown the roof off of the place. We didn't get the same reaction the second time around. "When we kicked in, it reminded us of Douglas Corner in 1988. If the doors had been locked, those radio folks would have knocked them down to get out! Joe walked up at the end and said "Boys, that's one of the best shows I've ever seen. What a class act!"

In 2000 and 2003, the HeadHunters came back with two of their best ever. Grass String Ranch was a rebel rouser's dream that saw the band dig deep into their Southern rock bag of tricks. Then came Soul, lauded by many to be the Heads at their best since Pickin' On Nashville and That'll Work. The record was an experiment to re-create the vibe, sound, and style of the early Muscle Shoals recordings. Once again, the rub of being from Kentucky created something all together different. Both records were on Koch Records.

2005 saw the release of Big Boss Man. Sony music's Tom Long called us and asked if we would take the Sony catalog and "HeadHunterize" a bunch of classics for movie tracks. Once they heard it, they put it out as a record. "We had a lot of fun messing with all those old songs, and it was great working with Tom, who was first to discover our talents back in the 70s," said Fred.

In 2006, Flying Under the Radar was released. "This CD was a mixture of album cuts that we hoped would get a second chance to be heard, from the previous three CD releases. We're glad we put the record out. A lot of folks come up and say, "Oh, I like this song or I like that song." That's proof that if you put a great song on a record when the times and the way people are thinking are off, it will go right over their heads," said Doug.

2007 saw our cousin, and life-long bandmate, Anthony Kenney retire from the Kentucky HeadHunters. Anthony is truly one of the greatest musicians and songwriters we have had the honor to share the stage with. We will always miss his talent and quick wit.
Fred, Doug, Greg and Richard found themselves right where they were when the HeadHunters started... A four piece band. They made a pact with each other that this was the way the Heads would stay.

Back in 1990, a landmark live album was recorded, at the legendary Agora Ballroom, in Cleveland, Ohio. While the heads were writing on a new album, they decided to also use this time dust off the live multi-tracks, mix them, and present them to Universal Records. Luke Lewis heard the concert, made a call to California, and in 2009, the album was released on the prestigious "Live Bootleg Series," that had previously spawned great live albums from the likes of Muddy Waters, Kiss, Cinderella, and many others.

2010 saw The Kentucky HeadHunters take two giant and much needed steps. Finally, after many years of recording in large studio's, for major labels, the boys formed their own record label, "Practice House Records," and headed to the farm to record, for the first time in the "Practice House." The result was "Dixie Lullabies," released October 19, 2011.

Being in the old farm house with no restrictions and no time limits allowed the Heads to be themselves, in the truest form. For an inside look at this adventure, Google "Kentucky HeadHunters epk". The Kentucky HeadHunters are currently working on two exciting new album projects.

Stay tuned.. You know this bunch is pretty unpredictable.!

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Kathleen Edwards

Ottawa singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards is well known for penning songs that act as perfect travel companions to their own haunted landscapes. Her highly decorated work frequently celebrates the many pleasures of survival and reinvention, all with a seductively quiet strength. A musical raconteur, lyrical poet, and gifted performer, the music of Kathleen Edwards is beautifully honed artistry.

In the years following her breakout debut album Failer (2003), sophomore
release Back To Me (2005) and Asking For Flowers (2008), Kathleen’s songs have topped the Billboard charts, been featured in the pages of Rolling Stone, Spin, Pitchfork, The Guardian, graced the cameras on late night TV with David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Jimmy Fallon, and Austin City Limits TV, as well as earning her several Juno nominations, and short-list for Polaris Music Prize. A consummate collaborator, Edwards has also appeared on projects with Iron & Wine, Calexico, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), John Doe and Bryan Adams, and shared stages with the likes of Bon Iver, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and The Rolling Stones. In 2012, Kathleen released her fourth studio album, Voyageur, co-produced with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, which garnered international critical acclaim and won her the 2012 SOCAN Echo Songwriting Prize.

In 2014, Kathleen took a short break from life on the road to pursue other passions and opened up coffee shop in her hometown, pulling inspiration from the great cafés she discovered along her travels around the world. With tongue- in-cheek she named the shop “Quitters”, and it’s become a fixture on the Ottawa foodie scene since the day it opened. This casual café by day and bar at night, featuring a creative and lovingly curated wine and craft beer list overseen by
Kathleen, has quickly earned a reputation as one of the best cafes/bars in the Ottawa area.


Yukon Blonde 

After the last show of their final European Tour, in support of their 2015 Album, ‘On Blonde,’ Yukon Blonde were not ready to come home to Canada – So they didn’t.  Instead, frontman Jeff Innes relocated to Madrid, Spain; to be joined sporadically by his bandmates over the following months.  “Crazy” and “Emotional Blackmail” are the first songs to be released from this period and were written in the gardens of the El Retiro, over beers at Restaraunte Padron, and from a one room apartment on San Bernardino, Malasana.

After coming back to Canada the band retreated to the West Coast, and their studio on Galiano Island, an island of less than 1000 people off the coast of British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, and it was there that the band finished the writing process.

These songs we produced by Yukon Blonde and Steve Bays (Hot Hot Heat) and additionally mixed by Steve Bays at Tugboat Studios in Vancouver.

A full length album with follow in 2018.


William Prince

William Prince is a JUNO Award winning singer-songwriter from Peguis First Nation. William sidesteps clichés to provoke thought and facilitate discovery. His baritone vocals pay tribute to his late father and his genuine delivery acknowledges the hundreds of hours he’s spent on the stage. Prince’s debut album, Earthly Days, produced by long-time collaborator Scott Nolan, was released in December 2015 to critical acclaim. William has recently performed in the U.S. and the U.K., and has a full summer touring across Canada as well as a first appearance at Denmark's Tønder festival.



Twenty-five years after forming a band based on t-shirts they made before ever picking up their instruments, Calgary’s Chixdiggit still sounds like catchy summer tunes blasting from car windows. Specializing in three-minute songs that stick in your head for the next three weeks, Chixdiggit has always been more riff than raff. In spite of nearly three decades of a fluid band line-up anchored by singer/guitarist KJ Jansen, their enthusiastic brand of post-punk pop is neither faded nor jaded.
Jansen makes use of personal pronouns to draw the listener into stories we have all lived, memoirs of summer flings, infatuation, flirting at day jobs, catalogue models and feeling a bit mystified by life. The tales are charming without being corny, unselfconscious and even a bit cheeky, a cheekiness which gives a lot of space to insert a tongue. Some truths are laid bare with humour, and others are knocked unconscious with it. Wrapped up in unshakable melodies and hooks to rival an elementary school hallway you find parody so close to home that it lives in your back yard.
With a Fall tour and a sixth album being released by Fat Wreck Chords in September 2016, fans of the band have much to look forward to. 2012 is the title of the new album that highlights a full year of the band on tour. It’s an exhilarating experience from start to finish that leaves you feeling like you were right there with them: around the world and back again. All in just under 25 action packed minutes!

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Hailing from a dairy farm in central Saskatchewan, young hip-swinger-folk-singer Ellen Froese is not Joan Baez or a sheep, but the vibrato in her voice may suggest otherwise. As both a solo folk artist (with or without a back-up band) and a member of the bluegrass/folk group In With The Old, there is no doubt that Ellen is a busy bee, balancing the multiple performances and projects of her two artistic endeavors. One of Ellen’s very first gigs was a 2014 opening slot for Catherine MacLellan at the Bassment in Saskatoon; two years later, she was headlining the venue herself after the success of her first solo album release, Get on With the Blues. From a young age and over a short period of time, she has clearly proven herself to be a valued addition to the world of folk music through her poignant vocals and raw talent in musicianship.

Growing up as a homeschooled only child on her grandparents’ Mennonite homestead, Ellen has a rich history of singing to the cows. Her passion for music started at an early age, beginning with a phase of non-stop adoration for rock ‘n’ roll and culminating with a love for songwriting and folk/bluegrass music. This range of interests growing up has highly influenced her abilities and stylistic choices as an artist today. In 2012, Ellen and two friends formed the folk trio In With the Old as an outlet for their zeal for the genre, which soon led them on to two album releases and extensive touring throughout North America. This brought Ellen to appearances at Merlefest, Breakout West, and Folk Alliance International, just to name a few.

Ellen released her second solo album in Fall 2017 accompanied by a tour of Western Canada, followed up with yet another Canadian tour with the Hot Toddies. In Terry Pugh of Clark's Crossing Gazette's words, “(Ellen has) superb songwriting skills, versatile musicianship, and an unforgettably sweet voice.” With her effortlessly striking vocals, adeptness on the guitar, and honest songwriting, Ellen has found a home onstage. Whether performing a traditional tune, a rock 'n' roll classic, or an original, the multi-instrumentalist does it with an air of authenticity – all tempered with a healthy dose of self-deprecation.

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Originally separated by 2800 kilometres and a country apart, it was through iPhone demos that Surf Dads was birthed. Releasing three EP’s over the span of three months, Surf Dads has proved to be nothing short of a workhorse band.

Described as “Weezer on speed,” Surf Dads plays fast and loud, often leaving the stage bruised and bleeding with broken guitars to match. Their sound and style is more akin to West Coast acts than that of the Canadian Prairie towns of which they were raised.

After spending a month touring Europe in support of their EP “Summer Vacation”, Surf Dads continue to put out record after record. With their debut album “All Day Breakfast” hitting shelves April 7, the duo shows no signs of slowing down. Keep your eyes open for this new Canadian act!



Kara Golemba digs deep to draw strength from her roots. Having grown up and lived in cities across Western Canada, it took moving to small town Saskatchewan to find her voice and be able to succinctly portray her unique perspective on life and love. Through music, she is dedicated to exploring new realms of emotion, thoughtfulness, and compassion with her audience.

Her debut EP, Every Little Light, is a down-to-Earth mix of country, folk, and roots music and established her as a part of the emerging independent prairie music community. Golemba spins her songs from the threads of her daily experiences, relationships, natural environment and ancestral heritage. Her voice can be a sweet mixture of warm honey with a little grit, or she can raise it up to rattle the teacups.  Often, Golemba is compared to artists like Susan Tedeschi with her powerful vocal or Brandi Carlile for her unique lyrical perspective. Her single ‘Box Labelled You’ released Fall 2017 has certainly gotten her fans excited about the upcoming full length album release. 

Kara Golemba has played SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, The Gateway Music Festival, The Craven Country Jamboree, Telemiracle, and appeared in CBC/Creative City Centre’s ‘Empty Room Series.’  She also won the 2016 620 CKRM Proudly Saskatchewan Showcase and her track “Mason Jar of Memories,” picked up the ‘Spirit of Saskatchewan Songwriting Award.’  In the prairie tradition, it’s clear that instead of putting on songwriting airs, Kara Golemba uses her unpretentious, rural surroundings to fill her creative well.






Natural Sympathies is the solo project of Regina-based musician Amber Goodwyn, formerly of the Montreal bands Cobra & Vulture and Nightwood. Trading her former guitar music for low-fi, pared-down pop ditties, Natural Sympathies is an eclectic mix of playful vocal harmonies, urgent lyrics, elemental drum machine beats, organ and synth.

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Beach Body originated as a solo basement recording project of vocalist/guitarist Rory Copithorn. Long time pals Ian Patterson (bass) and Gaelan Malloy (drums) joined in the summer of 2017 after the trio ran into each other whilst working on their fitness at the local gym.

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Hope and redemption. Philosophy and folklore. The music of Gunner & Smith has always been a collection of fiery elements, blending searing guitars, brawny rhythms and distinct folk-family vocals to produce tightly-knit rock anthems. But on Byzantium, the group’s second full-length album, the songs simmer and seethe with a newfound brooding energy that looks at the darker sides of love, loss and humanity.

Anchored by the stolid songwriting of frontman Geoff Smith, the ever-shifting nature of the band has once again undergone another evolution, with a talented cadre of musicians joining the frontman at the helm. Featuring an ever-expanding sound that combines indie rock, alt-country and sizzling psych-Americana, Byzantium is borne from a deeper, darker place than the group’s previous material.

Recorded at Sinewave Studios, located 100 km away from the group’s home in Saskatoon, it was here where Gunner & Smith built their recorded sound with gear gathered and borrowed from friends and family scattered across Canada. Surrounded by rural, open plains and dilapidated buildings, the cadre of road-seasoned musicians managed to yield a brawl of gothic country, gritty folk, and cinematic rock. Recorded in a scant two and a half days, Byzantium was overseen by Andrija Tokic of Nashville - the producer behind the Alabama Shakes biggest breakthrough album Boys & Girls. Recording the Gunner & Smith sessions live off the floor straight to analog tape, the resulting sounds are both soft and lush, watermarked with the romance, deeply textured soft melodies, pop hooks and explosive choral climaxes.


BADLAND COUNTRY BAND - Badland Country Band covers top 40 country hits, classics of country and some classic rock’n roll hits. Badland Country’s current musicians have been entertaining Southern Saskatchewan for the past 10 years – playing local pubs, weddings, rodeo dances, music festivals in and around South West Saskatchewan.