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.