Meet the Sons

Gather ’round, boys, tune the fiddle up and sing! Left to right: Rob, Richard, Larry, Walen © 2006 Roger Blake Photography

Rob Croft is the spark and brilliance of the group, providing the firepower in his fiddle and strong tenor voice to thrill any audience. His classical training in violin began at a young age and continued well into college, but his interest in the folk music of the fiddle has taken him deep into the traditions of Bluegrass and Western music. Fiddle Champion of the Western Music Association in 1993, Rob also plays mandolin and guitar. Like the other two original members, Rob’s vocal experience includes lifelong participation in a cappella congregational singing, where he can be heard to range from his native tenor up to alto or down to bass with surprising skill. Formal training includes violin, voice, music theory and many years with orchestras and choirs. You’ll never hear him play a piece the same way twice, even when it would be best if he did. Rob is a native New Mexican and the author of the group’s award-winning signature piece, The Spirit & Beauty of the West.

Walen Mickey is the band’s impulse and designated nitpicker, serving as director, arranger, producer and engineer. Born in Texas and raised in Colorado, he made New Mexico his adult home. Walen is the author of most of the band’s original material, including the award-winning Stay in the Saddle. A vocalist at heart, he took up guitar after moving away from the piano at his childhood home. Walen sings lead for the band, with an expressive voice at home across the range of bass to tenor. His formal training includes music theory, piano, voice and guitar, in addition to many years with choirs. His broad musical interests have engendered a number of projects over the years, ranging from Barbershop to Gospel and Classical to Western. He has directed a half-dozen small ensembles and has produced at least as many recordings. We don’t have the heart to tell him that when people say he takes his music too seriously, it isn’t necessarily a compliment.

Larry Ruebush is the backbone of the group, providing the steady hand and clear-eyed judgment his younger cohorts sometimes lack. He’s also the only one that ever has any money to spend on equipment. His powerful baritone voice is the West itself, rich and compelling. Larry is just young enough to remember live radio, having worked in that medium for several years singing bass in a Gospel quartet on weekly broadcasts. He tackled the string bass several years back, and wields the occasional harmonica. Formal training includes bass, voice and music theory, plus four years in the New Mexico All-State Chorus. His youth working the land and livestock of southern New Mexico gives him the experience that grounds the group in the heritage and romance of Western Music. A lifelong New Mexican, his love for his native land is evident in his ballad The Steward. Larry serves as the band’s manager, roadie wrangler and bill collector.

Richard Twilley is the newest member of the Sons of the Rio Grande, though we’re pretty sure he isn’t the youngest. A lifelong New Mexican, Richard is a veteran of the US Army, Caterpillar Tractor and about a dozen different bands over the years. He’s graced numerous recordings and is a familiar sight at fiddlers’ jam sessions. Declining the multi-talented pretensions of certain of his bandmates, Richard sticks to what he does best — upright bass. We generously offered to let him sing with the trio, but he assured us that our fans would be happier if he didn’t, to say nothing of sensitive livestock. He started out years ago on rhythm guitar, but when he failed to find any player who could pull off the walking bass lines he kept hearing in his head, he figured he’d just have to do it himself. Half the time we have no idea where he’s headed when he launches one of those crazy lines, but darned if he doesn’t wind up on the right note at the right time a couple of bars later. Welcome to the outfit, Richard.

Read about us in the Albuquerque Journal!

Comments are closed.