The Hickabillies: Music & Stories of Bluegrass in Iraq

June 27th from 2:00 – 3:30 pm.

Free with Exhibit Admission. Free to Active and Retired Military.

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These NC National Guardsmen met while on active duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The “Original Iraqi Garage Band” began playing bluegrass for other troops in the area.  They will entertain you with music and stories about their experiences and make you laugh too!

The Hickabillies, “The Original Iraqi Garage Band”, formed during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The Hickabillies are composed of members from Old Hickory, the 30th Heavy Separate Brigade. The 30th Brigade began active duty September 2003 and left for Iraq in February of 2004.

During their deployment, entertainers like Toby Keith, Jessica Simpson, and the USO performed at Baghdad bases but nowhere near the Brigade’s station. In response, a group of soldiers within the Brigade decided to entertain the troops and have some fun in the process.   The Hickabillies have opened for Jason Michael Carroll and the Charlie Daniels Band. The original members of The Hickabillies are Emory Altman (a military policeman), David Parker (a Chaplain’s assistant), Emet Itara (a United States civilian contractor), and Steve “Big Country” Carpenter (Field Artillery). They met at church services held in the Foreword Operating Base’s (FOB) chapel and began to write and practice various songs in their spare time to decompress from the pressures of war and activities of military life.  Stolen moments were hard to find and midnight practices became common.

The Hickabillies premiered in Iraq on July 4th with a four-song set. The “Hickory Hayride” Musical Comedy Show was born from their efforts and it wasn’t long until “The Hickabillies” grew into an 8-piece band with a large repertoire. The band wrote song parodies, played cover tunes, and composed originals.

Although “The Hickabillies” membership changed due to guard duty, combat patrols and deployments, they continued to perform as regularly as possible. “The Hickabillies” performed at several FOB’s from Kirkusk to Tuz. Their parodies about military life and other humorous songs were big hits with the troops. Songs like “Diggin’ up Bombs” after the Randy Travis hit, “Diggin’ up Bones”, “Terd-Herders – The Porta-Jon Tribute Song”, “Take this FOB and Shove It”, “Burka Song”, and “I Love this FOB” had troops rolling in laughter and singing along. “The Hickabillies” final Iraqi performance was four hours long for an audience of over 400 troops.

In May 2005 the USO approached “The Hickabillies” to perform for the North Carolina National Guard Welcome Home Celebration and Recognition Ceremony.  This was their first show in the United States and they opened for national recording artists Hootie & The Blowfish.  Since then, they have  opened for the Charlie Daniels band, done several benefits, charity shows, even bluegrass festivals and American Legion Halls. Now the primary band members are Emory Altman (Post 440), David Parker (Post 48), Wilson Guyton (Post 116), Buck Rogers (Post 11) and, most recently, USAF Academy veteran, Winston Dixon.  All members get together for shows and gigs as much as family, work and other obligations allow but want to expand on their talents.  They are truly a welcome change from the ordinary “bar band” or “circuit band” and are excited at the prospects of their range of entertainment.



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