The Kentucky Headhunters are a hillbilly version of the Beach Boys

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 2, 1991

By Steve Newton

Anybody out there remember the old Davy Crockett TV show, starring Fess Parker as the coonskin-capped Tennessee woodsman who’d go in the bushes with a grizzly bear and a Bowie knife and come out with just the knife? Anybody ever own one of those coonskin caps, which were just the coolest thing to have on your head while shooting off a wad of dirt from an air rifle? And anybody ever hummed that happy tune, “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”, while wearing one of those caps, shooting off one of those rifles, and pretending they were the last survivor of the Alamo?

Me too. That’s why I get such a kick out of the Kentucky Headhunters’ version of that 1955 song. It really brings back those faded memories of childhood role-playing.

“That was pretty much Fred Young’s idea,” Headhunters lead guitarist Greg Martin says of the band’s drummer’s inspiration. “We’ve got a concession boy on the bus named David Jessie, and he was just goin’ around singin’ ‘David, David Jessie, king of the wild frontier.’ Then Fred was watching an old movie called The Kentuckians, which had the coonskin hats and stuff. He just kinda told us, ‘Man, I wanna do “Davy Crockett”!’

“And that version’s kinda NRBQ influenced, too,” adds Martin. “The boy’s got a nice little sense of humour.”

“Davy Crockett” is the lead-off single from the Kentucky Headhunters’ new album, Electric Barnyard, the follow-up to the Grammy award-winning debut, Pickin’ on Nashville. It’s just one of a number of kick-ass country-rock tunes that the band recorded and mixed in only 12 days.

“Yeah, that is quick,” muses Martin. “ ’Course, the first one was even faster, because we didn’t have much time or money back then. Our budget was a little better this time, so we went ahead and did 12 days. But I think that’s the trick to this kinda music—you don’t need to be in there tweakin’ too long with everything. You pretty much have to play fast and mix hard.”

The new album—which also includes a version of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” and Waylon Jennings’ “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line”—will be well-represented when the Headhunters go scoutin’ for noggins at the Commodore this Wednesday (May 8). And if the band happens to be as tight as a boa’s death-grip, you can credit that to the fact that the singer and bassist are one pair of brothers, while the rhythm guitarist and vocalist are another. Martin’s just a cousin, so he’s a bit of an outsider.

“It’s kinda like bein’ in a hillbilly version of the Beach Boys,” chuckles the shaggy-maned picker. “But there’s definitely a lotta brotherhood and love there. You know how brothers pick at each other and so on? Well, that goes on as well, man, but it don’t last over five minutes. I kinda get a kick out of watchin’ it all.”

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