The Wall Street Journal To Premiere Meet Me In Bluesland Beginning Monday, May 25 Kentucky Headhunters

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 21, 2015) – On Monday, May 25, The Wall Street Journal‘s Speakeasy blog will host the world premiere ofMeet Me In Bluesland, a previously unreleased 2003 recording by Grammy-winning Southern blues-rockers The Kentucky Headhunters with pianist Johnnie Johnson, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. These last recorded performances of Johnson’s career found the man Rolling Stone called “the greatest sideman in rock and roll” for his groundbreaking piano work with Chuck Berry playing some of the deepest and most rocking blues piano of his legendary career. With The Kentucky Headhunters at their down-home best, the record is a country-fried, blues-infused party from start to finish. The CD will be released on Alligator Records on June 2, 2015.

The Kentucky Headhunters, declared “the great American rock ‘n’ roll band” by Billboard magazine, began their professional journey in 1968 when brothers Fred and Richard Young and cousins Greg Martin and Anthony Kenney formed the Southern blues-rock band Itchy Brother. The band morphed into The Kentucky Headhunters in 1986. Their first album, 1989’s Pickin’ On Nashville, was released by Mercury Records and surprised the world, becoming a bona fide hit, selling over two million copies. The album won a Grammy Award, three Country Music Awards, an American Music Award and an Academy Of Country Music Award. It spawned four consecutive Top 40 Country hits. The New York Times said, “Rowdy, twanging, wild-eyed Southern rockers perform songs that insist on down-home roots. The Headhunters bring a sense of bar-band recklessness, riffing with unchecked muscle, combining country roots with ferocious, bluesy hard rock.” Currently, the band is made up of Richard Young, Fred Young, Greg Martin and Doug Phelps.

Growing up on a 1300-acre family farm in Edmonton, Kentucky, the Young brothers, Martin and Kenney heard plenty of raucous R&B and deep, soulful blues courtesy of Fred and Richard’s mother, who listened to powerhouse radio station WLAC late at night. “She was real hip,” Richard says. “She was a huge influence on us.” Their father loved big band jazz, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Sarah Vaughan. “Music in our home was a mixture, unlike what most farm kids heard.” Part of their musical upbringing included their friendship with three African-American families who lived and worked on nearby farms. The boys heard gospel and blues, both sung by their neighbors in the fields and blasting out of their radios. They were reared on Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters (the name Headhunters was a nickname given to Waters and Jimmy Rogers when they came into a club ready to take on all comers). “All of these things taught us the blues,” says Richard. They loved Chuck Berry, and were especially wowed by Berry’s piano player, Johnnie Johnson. Befriending him and recording with him was a dream come true for the band. According to Fred, “We were fortunate to know him. It was a good marriage.” Richard adds, “Anyone who ever played with him became a better player.”

Johnnie Johnson was born on July 8, 1924 in Fairmont, West Virginia. He began playing piano at age five and never stopped. While serving in the Marines, he joined The Barracudas, a Marines servicemen’s band. He moved to Detroit and then Chicago, eventually playing with Muddy Waters and Little Walter. He landed in St. Louis in 1952 where he formed The Sir John Trio, playing jazz, blues and pop standards. Chuck Berry, an ambitious local guitarist and songwriter, was added to the group the same year and eventually took over leadership of the band. After Berry scored a contract with Chess Records, the hits came fast and furious. Many, including MaybelleneNadine, Carol and School Days, were fueled by Johnson’s two-fisted piano. He was the high-octane gasoline in Chuck Berry’s rock ‘n’ roll engine. When Chuck wasn’t touring, Johnson played with Albert King, and recorded a number of singles with him for the Bobbin label. Tired of the road, Johnson left Chuck’s band in 1973 and returned to St. Louis to become a bus driver. With the 1987 release of the Chuck Berry documentary, Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, Johnson found himself back in the spotlight, reintroduced to the world by his friend-to-be Keith Richards. After three solo recordings, Johnson joined his musical cohorts The Kentucky Headhunters for 1993’s That’ll Work. In 1996 and 1997 he toured with Ratdog, the band fronted by The Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir. Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and continued to perform and record until his death in 2005. His 2003 sessions with The Kentucky Headhunters, released now for the very first time as Meet Me In Bluesland, are some of the most spirited and organic recordings of his remarkable and still influential career.

The Story Behind Meet Me In Bluesland:
On January 25, 2003, Johnson joined his hosts, The Rolling Stones, for a rousing rendition of Honky Tonk Women at Houston, Texas’ Reliant Stadium. After hanging out all night with Keith Richards, Johnson got on a plane and flew to Kentucky. There he reunited with his good friends, brothers Richard and Fred Young, Greg Martin, Doug Phelps and Anthony Kenney, known worldwide as The Kentucky Headhunters. The plan was to have Johnnie lay down some piano for the band’s upcoming release, Soul. But the vibe was too strong and the music too good, so the tape just kept rolling. With songs and arrangements furiously being created on the spot and everything recorded live as it happened over the course of three days, a magical musical event was underway. Because the whole session was spontaneous, there were no immediate plans to release an album. After Johnnie’s death in 2005, the tapes, while never forgotten, remained unissued.

With the release of Meet Me In Bluesland, these timeless and rollicking performances are available for the first time. The record grooves from the raunchy rock of Stumblin’ to the slide-fueledSuperman Blues to the roof-raising version of Little Queenie to the rocking Party In Heaven to the salacious She’s Got To Have It (the last vocal Johnson ever recorded).

“The minute Johnnie sat down with us, the music was a kind of ecstasy,” says guitarist/vocalist Richard Young. “Johnnie made us play like real men,” adds guitarist/vocalist Greg Martin. “Playing with him, the groove got bigger and much more grown up.” Drummer Fred Young explains, “We all admired Johnnie from the start. The first time we played with him was the first time I ever felt like we were doing it right. The music we made on Meet Me In Bluesland is as good as it gets.”

The relationship between Johnson and The Kentucky Headhunters dated back to 1992. Headed to New York for a Grammy Awards party, Greg picked up the new Johnnie Johnson CD, Johnnie B. Bad, for the ride. The band listened to nothing else all the way to New York. Having no idea he’d be at the party, they were shocked to see Johnnie Johnson sitting alone at a table. After some quick introductions, the musicians talked for hours, becoming fast friends. In 1993 they released their first collaboration, That’ll Work, on Nonesuch. They took the show on the road, playing gigs from the West Coast to New England, from Chicago’s Buddy Guy’s Legends to New York City’s Lone Star Café. They performed at The Jamboree In The Hills in Belmont County, Ohio, where Johnson, with the Headhunters triumphantly jamming behind him, played to over 30,000 fans.

From their very first meeting, Johnson and The Kentucky Headhunters stayed close, getting together whenever possible. In 2003, when the band asked Johnson to record with them again, he couldn’t wait to get back to Kentucky and make music with his friends. “Johnnie’s music was spontaneous, organic, magic energy,” says Greg. “During the recordings, everything was off-the-cuff and easy; a higher power just took over. This album is special, and we’re very happy in 2015 that it’s coming to fruition.” Adds Fred, “Johnnie gave us the gift of letting us know what it was like to do something great.”

Wayne Co Commissioners Salute R&R on 10th!


Calling Honesdale Roots & Rhythm  a “gift to the community” and an “outstanding event,” the Wayne County Commissioners issued a Certificate of Recognition to the festival’s organizers on the occasion of the event’s 10th anniversary coming up on June 20th.

“How many times have you been told over the years ‘this could never be done’?, Commissioner Jonathan Fritz asked Roots & Rhythm board members, several of whom have been with the event since day one back in 2006.  Gail Tucker, executive director of The Greater Honesdale Partnership and one of the festival’s co-founders, said a lot of people really didn’t think they were serious about launching a festival that brought high-quality music and arts to Honesdale for free.

“But we did it,” said Brian Fulp, chair of this year’s Festival and also one of the original organizers. “And it’s really grown, thanks in large part to sponsors such as yourselves, our volunteers and the community. When we started in 2006, about 2,000 people turned out. Last year, we had close to 6,000 people who came out to hear the music.”

Each of the commissioners seemed to have a memory of one or more of the festival’s concerts.

“My father didn’t attend a lot of concerts, but when I took him to see L’il Ed and the Blues Imperials at Roots & Rhythm in 2011, his eyes just lit up,” said Commissioner Fritz. “It was truly something to see. He was very appreciative.”

“Music can bring so many people together. It’s really common ground,” added Commissioner Brian Smith, who is a musician himself. “No matter what your differences, you can all sit and hear the music together.”

“I am not a musician,” chimed in Commissioner Wendell Kay, “but this festival does bring quality music and art to Honesdale and it’s a great benefit to our rural community.”

Over the years, Roots & Rhythm has become an independent, non-profit, tax-exempt organization and won awards for its “green efforts” to recycle.

The headliner for this year’s event is the Grammy Award winning band, The Kentucky Headhunters. They’ll be preceded on the main stage in Honesdale’s Central Park by The Alexis P. Suter Band, Professor Louie and the Crowmatix, and Chrissi Poland. Prior to the main stage kickoff around 1:30pm, local bands will play along Main Street starting at 10:30am  The family-friendly event also includes laser tag, “Tunes & Tales” storytelling with hands-on demonstrations of “living history,” and Honesdale Rotary’s Beer & Wine Garden.

Commissioner Smith was so enthusiastic about this year’s headliners that the Roots & Rhythm Board voted unanimously to have Smith introduce The Kentucky Headhunters on stage.

“I am honored,” Smith said. “Can’t wait!”

The commissioners issued the certificate at their regular weekly meeting on April 30th. For more information about the festival, including opportunities to volunteer, visit


Photo seated left to right: Roots & Rhythm (R&R)  10th Anniversary Chair Brian Fulp;  R&R committee member Sandy DeGroat; R&R board members Lisa Champeau, Gail Tucker, Randy Kohrs; R& R committee member Cheryl  Badner.  Standing: Bill Bellhorn, R& R board; Commissioner Brian Smith; R& R board members Meica Drake and Deb Bailey; Commissioner Jonathan Fritz; R& R committee member David Good; Commissioner Wendell Kay.


Renowned Caricaturist JOHN KASCHT Presentation for Roots & Rhythm 10th Anniversary

John Kascht, whose work is collected by the Smithsonian Institute’s National Portrait Gallery and whose drawings have appeared on the pages or covers of almost every national publication (TV Guide, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, LIFE, The New York Times, etc) is partnering with Honesdale Roots & Rhythm Music & Arts Festival.  Kascht, who makes his home in the Wayne County area, will give a multimedia presentation about his art. The free program examines how he creates his caricature portraits, and will include anecdotes from a career spent illustrating musicians, actors, politicians and other notable figures.  It will be held at The Cooperage in Honesdale on June 12th at 7pm (doors open 6:30).

In addition to the presentation, Kascht is developing a poster that will represent the last 100 years of American music history.  The poster will be available for purchase at Roots & Rhythm on Saturday, June 20th.  The artist will also be on hand to personally sign each one.

“We are so honored to have someone of John’s status in the art world be a part of our festival,” said Roots & Rhythm 2015 Chair Brian Fulp. “His work is outstanding—you really have to check out his website!”

See Kascht’s phenomenal drawings of Conan O’Brien, Bill Murray, Whoopi Goldberg and more at

Photo: John Kascht at work. Photo by A. Greg Raymond

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Grammy Winners Kentucky Headhunters to Headline 10th Anniversary Festival

If you’re a fan of “Pickin’ on Nashville,” you aren’t alone! The album won a Country Music Association Award for the Kentucky Headhunters in 1990 and garnered a Grammy for the band the same year for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. And this year, 2015, the Kentucky Headhunters will headline the 10th annual Roots & Rhythm Music & Arts Festival in Honesdale.


“This band has been around since 1968, and they can really rock—we are excited to have them for our 10th anniversary,” says Brian Fulp, chair of this year’s festival. “And we thank Randy Kohrs, our Music Coordinator, for securing them.”


Also signed up for the June 20th date: Grammy nominated and Blues Hall of Fame inductees Professor Louie and the Crowmatix! New York’s Village Voice called the band, “a tasty mix of rhythm and blues and rock & roll. Americana at its best.”


That’s what Roots & Rhythm is all about, folks! Stay tuned for the rest of the lineup for the big 10th anniversary show as Randy seals the deals!


For more information about the headliner, visit  Listen to their music and grab a seat on the lawn in Central Park, Honesdale on June 20, 2015. See you there!


CALLING ALL ARTISTS! Gig Poster Exhibit…



For the 2nd year, the Honesdale Roots & Rhythm Music & Arts Festival is inviting all artists to create a limited edition “Gig Poster” for the festival. The posters will be displayed during the festival in Honesdale’s Central Park on June 20, 2015 and at The Cooperage on Main Street during events celebrating National Train Day, May 9th, 2015. A special artist’s reception with refreshments will be held on Friday, May 8th, from 7pm – 8pm at the Cooperage, followed by a performance by “The Brakemen.”  The gig posters will also appear on


Artists are asked to work on a poster space approximating 8” x 10”, and the art should represent a theme associated with the Roots & Rhythm festival, such as music, Wayne County or railroading. Honesdale is the birthplace of the country’s first commercial steam locomotive to run on rails—the Stourbridge Lion. A replica of the Stourbridge Lion can be seen in the Wayne County Historical Society building on Main Street in Honesdale.


“This year, the 10th for Roots & Rhythm, will also mark the return of train excursions to Honesdale,” said Graphics Director Amanda Sobolak. “That’s two great reasons to celebrate, and we hope our local artists will be inspired to show off their creativity with one or more of these themes.”


The poster deadline is May 4th, 2015.  Blank posters may be picked up and finished ones dropped off at Camp Umpy’s, 622 Main Street in Honesdale, during the bagel shop’s business hours, 6am – 2pm.


On the day of the festival, the posters will be displayed in Artist’s Row and a silent auction will be held.  All posters upon receipt become the property of Honesdale Roots & Rhythm Music & Arts Festival and all funds raised go towards the festival. Honesdale Roots & Rhythm Music & Arts Festival, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organization, reserves the right to use all posters in the future for various fundraising opportunities.




NEA Awards Grant to Roots & Rhythm

(Honesdale, PA, December 17, 2014)… It’s being described as “a great 10th anniversary present!” by the organizers of the Honesdale Roots & Rhythm Music & Arts Festival. The Festival was just awarded a $10,000 Challenge America Fast-Track grant from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Art Works program. It was their first time applying for the honor.


“To say I’m elated is an understatement,” said Jamie Stunkard, the Roots & Rhythm board member who submitted the grant. “It’s just a great honor for the Festival and the community.”


The Challenge America program is geared to offer support to small and mid-size organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations, and according to Stunkard, Roots & Rhythm really met the criteria. “We’re rural, we’re wheelchair accessible, and we’re free, so that people of any income level can attend and enjoy.”


Festival Chairman Brian Fulp agreed—this grant was a natural fit. “When we started Roots & Rhythm we wanted to combine music and arts and offer it to a community that may not have otherwise had the opportunity to experience it,” said Fulp, adding “I’m excited about the grant, but I’m also inspired by the community that embraced the opportunity we offered with Roots & Rhythm and helped us grow.”


Roots & Rhythm was one of 919 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Art Works grant this fall.  NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “I’m pleased to be able to share the news of our support through Art Works including the award to Honesdale Roots & Rhythm Music & Arts Festival. The arts foster value, connection, creativity and innovation for the American people and these recommended grants demonstrate those attributes and affirm that the arts are part of our everyday lives.”


The Honesdale Roots & Rhythm Music & Arts Festival draws more than 5,000 people each year from all across Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. The festival unfolds on a Saturday in June with local bands on Main Street in the morning and, in the afternoon, a solid lineup on the main stage in Central Park of four or five bands from around the country.


Stunkard hopes this award will open doors to more funding opportunities. “We had to provide a lot of material to support our application,” said Stunkard, “including three years of video clips of the musicians, musician biographies and several lengthy essays. We also had to show our funding structure for the past and going forward.”


While the NEA grant is sizeable, both Stunkard and Fulp say it’s just a portion of what’s needed to mount the Festival each year. Roots & Rhythm is possible largely because of local sponsors.


“Roots & Rhythm would not be possible without the support of our local benefactors,” explained Fulp. “This year, we plan to celebrate our 10-year history and our relationships with our sponsors. We want to make Roots & Rhythm bigger and better than ever, and we want them on board.”


The Honesdale Roots & Rhythm Music & Arts Festival in 2015 will take place on June 20, 2015 – rain or shine.  Mark it on your calendars and check the website, , often for updated information.


Contact: Lisa Champeau 570-253-8631

Deborah Bailey,  570-251-1512