Bluegrass in Iraq

Pickin’ strings from Iraq
A Berry graduate will be playing Bluegrass in Baghdad as part of the nationwide Marathon Jam. 01/31/09
By John Bailey, Rome News-Trbune, staff writer
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Local Berry graduate Lt. Col. Greg Rawlings and other “Baghdad Bad Boys” are playing in Iraq today, along with others across the U.S., to help raise money for the Fisher House. (Contributed photo)

Banjos will be a pickin’ in Baghdad today as a group of troops joins in with other bluegrass musicians to lend a helping hand.

Click to see the Bluegrass Is My Second Language Web site.

“We will be playing as a part of the now nationwide Marathon Jam to raise money for our brothers and sisters in arms,” said Lt. Col. Greg Rawlings, who is stationed at the Victory Base Complex in Iraq.

The proceeds of the jam will go to the Fisher House, an organization that provides a place to stay for families of patients receiving care at major military and VA centers. There are Fisher Houses scattered throughout the country.

“This is a very tangible way to support service members. The beauty of the Marathon Jam raising money for the Fisher house is it is completely apolitical,” said Rawlings.

The “Baghdad Bad Boys” bluegrass jam band at the base is an outlet for service members at the base.

“We play for a couple of hours. During that time we go back to North Carolina or where ever we are from through the music and fellowship,” said Rawlings.

While it’s always fun — you still gotta play good.

“Punches aren’t generally pulled in this group,” he said. “If you hit a clunker, folks will let you know about it.”

Rawlings, a Berry graduate, said his mother-in-law Frankie Nobles and brother-in-law Randy Nobles still live in Rome.

When he got to Ft. Bragg, in Fayetteville N.C., in the summer of 2006, he started picking up the old style Southern rhythm — he’d heard the tunes before but never joined in.

“I think that Mr. (Harry) Musselwhite, my voice teacher at Berry, would have scalped me if I’d broken loose with Blue Moon of Kentucky,” said Rawlings.

With a significant time difference between the U.S. and Iraq, the band is going to play two sets, including the one in the evening — where they will actually be performing at the same time as the other players.

“We will play for six hours in the morning, one in the morning and the second in the evening,” said Rawlings.

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