CAMP RIPPER, Iraq --
Every bandleader needs a niche. For Petty Officer 1st Class Boyd W. Lewis, it was humor and lightheartedness.
“I played a mixture of bluegrass and punk with a band called Bug Eyed Rachel,” said Lewis, 41, from Willisburg, Ky., who is a religious programs specialist with Regimental Combat Team 5. “I was lead guitar and sang vocals, even though I have the vocal range of a blue tick coon hound,” said Lewis jokingly.
Lewis and his fellow band mates, who were also military members, considered being in a band as a way to relax and have some fun.
“A lot of the content in our songs is focused for a more mature crowd,” said Lewis with a thick Kentucky accent. “There was one time we played the first set of a twelve-band ticket. We started playing at about noon, when there were only the waitresses and one of their daughters in the place. We had to stop the show to make sure the little girl wasn’t in the room for most of the songs.”
Most Friday nights, you can visit the chapel at Camp Ripper on Al Asad, Iraq, and hear Lewis at the front porch playing one of his off-colored songs to a crowd of laughing Marines. Some shake their heads knowingly as he sings about people who can’t talk to girls except on the internet, or as he belts out songs laced with colorful metaphors.
“A lot of the inspiration comes from hearing what Marines talk about,” said Lewis. “The Marines seem to like it a lot.”
Much of Lewis’ experience with music came from his father.
“Growing up in Kentucky, my daddy was a big music fan, but he only had one arm,” said Lewis. “When I was in the 3rd grade, he bought me a banjo.”
“I came up with what I call the ‘trailer-park punk’ style because I wanted to play music that was interesting to me, and I am sick of when people pick up the guitar and all they play is ‘Hotel California’ and Jimmy Buffet covers,” said Lewis.
Lewis’ original style has a history of resonating strongly with its audiences, whether for the good or for the bad.
“Somewhere in the back woods of Jacksonville,(N.C.), we got billed as a bluegrass folk band,” said Sgt. Jeff L. Deloy, 27, from Cromwell Conn., who was the bass player for Bug Eyed Rachel and is also an air-condition mechanic with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 1st Marine Logistics Group. “We were able to play about one set before we were thrown out.”
“Then, there was the time we were banned from ever playing in the country of the United Arab Emirates,” said Deloy laughing.
Lewis is currently playing in a praise-and-worship band at the Camp Ripper chapel here. He plans on putting together a Christian punk band sometime in the near future.
“I love old hymns because they are beautiful,” said Lewis through his wide Kentucky smile. “But the reality of the situation is, I can’t play guitar very well, but hey, The Ramones made it on three chords and a dream.”
The comical lyrics and acoustic punk riffs are definitely not for everyone, but for those who get the jokes, the music is like a breath of fresh air.