The Kentucky Headhunters released their twelfth studio album last fall and have dates lined up all the way through this fall, so it’s a good thing that guitarist Greg Martin already cleaned his basement. That’s right, folks. Live music is back in full force, which means that anything resembling domesticity is likely be put on the shelf now that musicians are free to resume life on the open road.
For Martin, he can’t wait to get back out there and give audiences a taste of what the new album sounds like in a live setting. It’s a robust, guitar-driven collection that is guaranteed to go over well with fans given its attitude and lyrical resonance.
I caught up with Martin recently to talk about the album and how the pandemic afforded him time to do things that he wouldn’t have gotten done under normal circumstances. If you’re not doing anything on July 16, make the trek to Jam at the Ridge in Le Roy, NY to experience what the Headhunters are all about for yourself.
MNOD: Describe the process of bringing “…That’s a Fact Jack!” to life.
Martin: Everyone has a pandemic story and ours is no different. We played four shows in 2020 before we started hearing about the virus. I may have possibly had it back then, because I got sick and didn’t know what it was. Then, the world as we knew it started locking down and then I did get COVID. It wasn’t a bad case and, thankfully, I was able to recover within 10 days. 2021 came and we knew that it was time to make another album. We ended up putting it together in Feb. 2021 and the tracking took about three weeks. The mixing, however, wasn’t a normal cycle, but the album ended up coming out in Oct. 2021. We had the drums in the main room and it worked OK, but I had trouble connecting at times. I like being all in one room together, so this was a different process. I’m looking forward to getting back out there with a full schedule and finally doing meet-and-greets again.
MNOD: What kinds of guitars did you use on this album?
Martin: My main guitar is a 1958 Les Paul Standard Sunburst that was given to me by Hank Williams Jr. I also have 1962 and 1964 Gibson ES-335s, a 1957 Stratocaster, and a Gretsch Silver Jet that I used.
MNOD: Was radio something that you always saw yourself getting into or did the interest come about later on?
Martin: I grew up with my parents listening to WAKY out of Louisville, so the radio was like a companion. I remember going to sleep in 1965 listening to Bob Dylan and later I got into stuff like The Ronettes, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys. I did my first radio show at WLOC in Kentucky back in 1986. Then, in 1997, I started doing a Southern rock show that ended up morphing into a roots and blues show. I celebrated 20 years of The Lowdown Hoedown at WDNS in Bowling Green last Nov. It streams all over the world at wdnsfm.com and I love doing it. I’ll play a little bit of everything from Wilson Pickett to Cream to Rory Gallagher.
MNOD: When The Kentucky Headhunters began, the sound had a distinctly country flavor to it that has come to incorporate more southern rock along the way. Was that a natural progression?
Martin: Rock music is in my blood. I became smitten with the electric guitar back in 1968 when I was a freshman in high school. My friends and I would jam on stuff like “Hey Jude,” “Revolution,” and “Sunshine of Your Love,” so, while we had country music all around us, we were already into the rock side of things from the beginning as Itchy Brother. We were almost signed to Swan Song, but the label went on hiatus after John Bonham died. When we changed the name to The Headhunters, the rock edge and roots came through more like a hillbilly version of The Who, Led Zeppelin, and Montrose. I loved players like Chet Atkins and Merle Haggard, but also guys like Eric Clapton, Ronnie Montrose, and Jimmy Page.
MNOD: Besides not touring, what was your life like at the peak of the pandemic?
Martin: I was a touring musician from 1977 to 2020, so I think being able to do the radio show kept me from going crazy. I also cleaned up my basement and hope to do the show from down there eventually. I had a bunch of jazz guitar books that I intended to use to learn new chords as well as played at church every Sunday, so that kept my calluses strong. It was a bittersweet year, but there were positives.
MNOD: What does your upcoming schedule look like now that things are getting back to normal?
Martin: We have dates booked right up through October, so we’re looking forward to getting out there and playing live again on a regular basis. It’s some life to be out on the road as long I’ve been, but I wouldn’t imagine it any other way.
…That’s a Fact Jack! is available now wherever music is disseminated.
The Kentucky Headhunters play July 16 in Le Roy, NY