Rock & roll never forgets


Back in 2005, a group of local musicians decided they wanted to keep the music of the ‘50s and ‘60s alive and kicking in the Mesilla Valley, so they formed a band called “Remember Then.”

In 2013, former Las Cruces Mayor Ruben Smith joined the combo as a sax player and vocalist, and he brought along another vocalist, Barb Edmonds.

The band recorded an album in 2015, featuring 12 tracks, and they have played all over New Mexico, including gigs in Albuquerque. They have opened for such rock icons as The Coasters, The Platters, The Drifters and The Crystals, and they did a performance a couple of years ago on the NMSU campus with a Neil Diamond tribute performer, Chris Waggner.

The band’s lineup has changed a bit through the years, and many of the members belong to more than one band, so it’s sometimes hard to wrangle all the schedules to accommodate rehearsals and concert dates, but Smith and Edmonds had been managing to keep it all together.

Right up until around Christmas of 2019, when Smith said he was done wrangling and wanted to stage one more performance and then dim the lights on “Remember Then.” Everyone agreed to the idea of the show, which will be staged Feb. 1 at the Rio Grande Theatre, but Edmonds strongly objected to the idea of putting the band in mothballs, and it took her less than two weeks to bring Smith around.

“The show must go on,” she told him. And it will.

Still, the Feb. 1 show will be unique in that it will bring back to the stage some of the original band members who dropped off at some point along the way. The current lineup of Smith, Edmonds, Bill Bell, Miguel Torres, Ruben Galvan and Gary Parker will be joined on stage byPhil Holmes, Rudy Apodaca, Genie Pettes, Ron Leone and Gordon Butler.  The show will be dedicated to the band’s original drummer, Royce Bandle, who died in June of 2018.

“This show will be different than anything we’ve done before,” Smith said. “We’ll be doing standards of the ‘50s and ‘60s, but we’re also throwing in a few surprises. You might hear some country songs and recent pop tunes. There will be some gems.”

The two-hour show will be played in two sets, and all of the talent on the stage is homegrown local, musicianship, with the exception of Ron Leone, Edmonds said. “Most of us started playing music back in junior high schools all over Las Cruces way back when,” she said.

“This’ll be the only concert I know of performing this genre with all local musicians who came up through the public schools,” Smith said. “We’re all little kids who grew up on these songs.”

And because Edmonds talked Smith into keeping the band alive well beyond the Feb. 1 show date, the band is always available for bookings.  “Remember Then” is open to performing for reunions, birthday celebrations and other special events, as well as feature concerts when the venues and scheduling permit.

“Whatever we do will be high energy,” she said. “We leave it all up there on the stage.”

Smith can be reached at

Side bar

“Remember Then”

Ruben Smith is a former mayor of Las Cruces who plays saxophone and vocals. He has performed with a variety of area classical and symphony orchestras. He’s been playing music since he was 10.

Barb Edmonds is a vocalist who took up music in seventh grade. She has performed with several bands, and has released two CDs and she continues to record with Dennis Anderson of The Coasters.

Phil Holmes plays bass guitar and vocals. He toured for 15 years with various bands, including the Four Dimensions, and is a sought-after stage and studio musician.

Ron Leone plays lead trumpet and flugelhorn, and he sings both baritone and falsetto. He has played with numerous bands in major cities, and debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair with a band called ‘Soul Expression.’

Genie Pettes started playing drums at age of 14 at Alameda Junior High.  When he was 18, he started his own band called “Starliner,” and they continue to perform regionally. He also competes in track events in Senior Olympics. 

Rudy Apodaca plays keyboards. He comes from a family of musicians and has toured nationally with various bands and Las Vegas-style show groups. He was inspired by his family and the music of James Brown.

Ruben Galvan has played drums and percussion for more than 30 years, playing with several area artists and groups. He is a mainstay in the Las Cruces/El Paso jazz scene.

Bill Bell learned to play guitar by ear, and he started out playing slide trombone in junior high in Las Cruces. He has played vintage rock with Crystal Ship and other local groups.

Miguel Torres has been a part of the local music scene since 2000, playing a variety of instruments in a myriad of Las Cruces-based groups. His main instrument is piano, and his favorite genre is jazz.

Gary Parker started taking guitar lessons when he was nine and started playing in bands by the time he was 12. He started playing bass at the age of 14. He currently is working with two local 50's/60's classic rock bands.

Gordon Butler started playing piano at 9 years old and changed to violin soon after. He comes from a prolific musical family.  He has played with the El Paso and Las Cruces Symphony's for decades, as well as with several country bands.