Private First Class Billy Mellon of Glasgow, Kentucky, was stationed at Fort Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq, as part of the US Army 4th Infantry Division. He had been overseas for close to eighteen months serving America as a vital cog in the wheel of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He had been a part of building sewerage systems, schools and electrical plants, as well as taking part in the capture or eradication of insurgent radical Islamist terrorists. Billy and his fellow soldiers fought these terrorists in the streets, farmlands and deserts of four provinces: Baghdad, Babil, Karbala and Najaf—and the battles were far from over.
It seemed that everyone in the Army had a nickname and in Billy’s case his buddies referred to him as Private Bluegrass, or the short version…Bluegrass! There was a good reason for the said moniker. Aside from the Army and a few short but sweet romantic interests, the twenty-year-old, light assault infantryman’s entire life revolved around Bluegrass music. He had played guitar and banjo since he was a little boy growing up on the Mellon family’s eighty-acre, tobacco farm that was located just a bit south of Glasgow on the road to Tompkinsville.
Billy figured, when his stint in the service came to an end, he would try to make a living with strings. Many times after a tough day routing out insurgents and dodging rocket propelled grenades, Billy would lie in his bunk and picture himself “pickin’ banjer” in Rhonda Vincent’s band, or perhaps playing acoustic guitar and singing high harmony with the Grascals or Mountainheart.
Before joining up with Uncle Sam a few years back, Billy did some pickin’ with a few local bands in Kentucky, but most of his musical experience came from sitting on the front porch with his dad in the early evenings. They would pick and sing old Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs tunes together long after the sun went down, usually with his father on guitar and Billy on banjo.