Kentucky Headhunters have soft spot for Charleston
WANT TO GO?
The Kentucky Headhunters, with Hogan's Goat and The Cobwebs
Part of the Capitol City Biker Bash
WHERE: Haddad Riverfront Park
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
COST: Free INFO: 304-344-5075 or www.capitolcitybikerbash.com
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some places are just special. The Kentucky Headhunters, who perform Saturday during the Capitol City Biker Bash, have more than a few points on the map that mean something to them.
One of them is Charleston.
"There's just something really charming about Charleston, West Virginia," singer/guitarist Richard Young said. "It's got a special vibe about it that I've always loved and has a special place in our hearts."
Young said there's history. Charleston and the country/Southern rock band go way back.
Before the band got famous, Young said, the group played the area quite a bit. His best memory was how nice the city was when the band was stranded in town after a snowstorm in 1989.
"It was right when the Headhunters got their first video out," he said, "and one of the first places we came to play was Charleston."
The band played a little club down the street from the Charleston Civic Center called the Country Western Dance Hall and Saloon. It was just another show.
He remembered that, just down the street, rock giant Aerosmith was working out the kinks of its upcoming Pumped tour. The band had rented the Civic Center out to rehearse for a few days, and then it played the first show of the tour there.
That Friday night, the Headhunters played and the snow fell. After the show, the band members couldn't go anywhere and decided to stick around an extra day.
"The owner was nice enough to let us play a second night."
People came out for a second helping. Then-Gazette reviewer Michael Lipton said the Headhunters didn't sound like country to him, but he nevertheless was impressed by the show.
He wrote, "Now, I don't know who's trying to fool whom, but if these Headhunters play country, I'll eat a sack full of white bread-and-spam sandwiches. These dudes rock like tomorrow is Judgment Day and the good Lord may be fixin' to take away their electric git-tars and amplifiers."
Young said that weekend was a special moment for the band members. He remembered playing their shows, but also being more than a little envious of the rock band down the street and its upcoming performance at the Civic Center.
He wondered, "Will we ever get to play a place like that?"
It turned out that the Headhunters did. Six months later, they were back in town, with Hank Williams Jr. A year after that, they headlined at the Municipal Auditorium, with Travis Tritt.
For a couple of years, the Kentucky Headhunters were an unlikely country music success story.
The band has traveled a lot of miles since then, although Young said the band members are much the same as always. He said they were more or less healthier than they used to be, though. Young suffered a heart attack in 2000 and the experience made him more conscious about taking care of himself and the health of people around him.
"We're still moving along," he said. "Of course, any of us could drop dead at any moment."
Young didn't sound too concerned, but he said that was part of it: letting go of worry. It helps that the Kentucky Headhunters are in a pretty good place. They mostly play, write and record songs on their own schedule, without a major record label.
"I know that sounds funny," he said, "but I guess we're kind of self-sufficient hillbillies."
Still, they have their preferences of where they do what they do. For their latest record, "Dixie Lullaby," the Headhunters recorded close to home at their "practice house," an old homestead the band has used for decades.
"We had electricity," he said, "but we don't have heat up there."
That was a problem. When the band members convened a couple of days after Christmas two years ago to write and record, they brought kerosene heaters, which came in handy after they got stranded by another snowstorm.
Young said they froze their butts off, but they couldn't be more pleased with the results.
"When you write songs in an old house and then take them to a big, fancy recording studio somewhere," he said, "sometimes something gets left behind."
Nothing got left behind, and it was all because it was the right place.
Reach Bill Lynch at email@example.com or 304-348-5195.
SEE ALSO: The gazz talked to Josh Knechtly of Friday night headliner Rootbound.