Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY


March 16, 2012

In His Musical Element

GLASGOW — On a cool rainy February day, Richard Young sits in his pickup in front of the white, frame house on his family’s farm that has come to be known as the practice house for the Kentucky HeadHunters.

He uses his pickup occasionally as an office, talking to the band’s publicist and booking gigs with the aid of his smart phone.

Although he is the rhythm guitarist for the HeadHunters, he also serves as the band’s manager. He needs a secretary to help keep up with it, but he won’t have one.

“I'm too much of a control freak,” he said.

When Richard’s not busy booking future engagements or touring with the band, he steels away time to write songs.

On the band’s recent album, “Dixie Lullabies,” Richard helped write several  songs. He has been writing songs for as long as he has been in a band and that dates back to 1968 when he, his brother, Fred, their cousin, Anthony Kenney, and Greg Martin,  played a 4-H talent show in Metcalfe County.  

When Richard writes, it’s either at his house or at the practice house in the Wisdom community of Metcalfe County.

“I sit down here by myself and drink a few beers and get off in another world and write,” he said.

That’s what he did until recently when he went to Nashville to team up with other songwriters.

“Bug Music, which handles the administration of our publishing these days, has been begging me to come down and write with some of these young writers and I just couldn’t get the nerve up to do it,” he said.

But with encouragement from his son, John Fred, and friend, Ben Wells, members of Black Stone Cherry, Richard made the trip to Nashville.

“I went and I gotta admit, here I am 57 years old and I almost had a little anxiety about it, because I didn’t want to leave my nest,” Richard said.

He spent two days in Nashville and wrote two songs for other artists to record. One is a rhythm and blues song. The other one could become a future HeadHunters’ song.

“If nobody records it before we do another album, we could record it, absolutely,” he said.

John Allen, vice president of Bug Music, said Richard is a versatile songwriter.

“He’s a great songwriter,” Allen said. “He can write country or rock or just about any format.”

John Fred admires his dad’s songwriting ability.

“My dad is truly an amazing songwriter who started very early writing songs soon after seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan,” he said.

Richard has written songs for Black Stone Cherry.

“He helped us write all of the songs on the self-titled debut album and on ‘Folklore and Superstition.’ He also helped us write, ‘Such a Shame’ and ‘Let Me See You Shake’ on the ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’ album,” said John Fred.

The one song the HeadHunters are most known for recording is “Dumas Walker.” It is a song that Young wrote about a man in northern Tennessee who owned a liquor store near the Kentucky-Tennessee state border.

“Dumas Walker” appeared on the HeadHunters’ debut album “Pickin’ On Nashville,” which earned the band a Grammy award in 1991.

One song he wrote, “I’m From the Country” was recorded in 1999 by country recording artist Tracy Byrd.

“Marty Brown and I wrote it. We wrote it right here in about 15 to 20 minutes,” said Richard Young. “Marty actually demoed the song for MCA Records to record it, but in the end he decided he didn’t want to use it on the album.”

A year later he received a phone call from Tony Brown, president of MCA Records.

“He calls me up one morning and said, ‘Richard, man, we cut one of your songs last night and it came out so good that we’re going to change the name of the album to that,’” said Richard.

The song was the most played single from 1990 to 2000 at ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.)

“Fred and I won an award for being publishers of that song,” said Richard. “I knew it was one of the top five of the year, but I had no idea that it was the most played.”

Six months after Byrd recorded the song, Richard and his brother, Fred, received an award for serving as publishers of the song.

 “About six months after the award show I got a book from Connie Bradley, the president of ASCAP, who said, ‘It must be nice to have the most played song for 10 years,’” said Richard Young.

He has never heard the song on the radio.

“But it’s played almost 2 million times, which is amazing. You can’t go in a honky tonk that you don’t hear a band play that song,” he said. “That was 13 years ago that I wrote that song and to this day it’s phenomenal the air play that it got in a year’s time. You don’t have songs like that but a few times in your life. I’ve been blessed to be a part of two of what you call classics; people never forgetting them, I guess.”

Richard is content with his career. The HeadHunters do  80 to 90 performances a year, which means he books a lot of gigs with his smart phone whether it’s in his truck or somewhere else. When he’s not playing band manager, he’s lost in another world penning a new song.

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