For 21 years Blue Highway held the distinction of holding together with its original, founding members. Despite a brief exit by Jason Burleson, who returned not long after, the same five talented musicians have remained with the group from the start. Given the many pressures facing a full-time, touring band, this is a distinction both rare and profound.
But today, Rob Ickes has announced that he will be leaving the group to focus on his many other musical endeavors. He explained in this note to fans and friends…
“In 1994, I had the tremendous good fortune of being invited to join Blue Highway as a founding member. I can’t imagine a better opportunity for a young dobro player, and Blue Highway has been a stellar creative home for me for 21 years. So it is truly with a heart full of gratitude — and more than a little sadness — that I announce my departure from the band.
There are many reasons that have led me to this decision, but it all boils down to the fact that 21 years is a long time, and I’m ready to put my energy into other musical projects. In recent years, I have done some touring in smaller ensembles. Those experiences really made me recognize how much more difficult it is for a larger band to deal with the complexities of travel, scheduling, recording, etc. The music is great, but everything that has to happen to get to that moment of creating great music is more complex and consuming.
So I am taking this step to simplify things. It is just so much easier to travel and perform on stage with a smaller group, and that is where I’m planning to focus my energy for most of my upcoming live performances.
To the guys in Blue Highway, words can’t express my gratitude, and how proud I am of the deep and rich repertoire of music we have created together. To our fans, I can only say that you made our 21+ years not only possible, but also immeasurably rewarding. I hope you will continue to support both Blue Highway and myself in the future.”
As you would expect, the rest of the band are sorry to see him go, but expressed support and gratitude for the time he has spent with them.
Shawn Lane: “Rob is my brother till the end of time. Nothing can change that. I couldn’t be prouder of the work we’ve been blessed to do together and what we’ve accomplished together. I wish him the very best in everything he does.”
Jason Burleson: “Rob is the most dedicated musician I know, and he will thrive in whatever musical path he chooses to take. I’ll miss his musicianship and the unique sound he brought to the band, but most of all, I’ll miss him. Thanks, Rob, for all the years of music, laughs and friendship.”
Tim Stafford: “While we’ll miss Rob and have enjoyed all the good times, we wish him nothing but the best as he moves forward, and we look forward to rolling on with Blue Highway!”
Wayne Taylor: “We love Rob. We also love what we do, and we’re pumped to get in the studio and bring a new Blue Highway album to the fans,. Bluegrass has the most dedicated fans in the world. Thanks to everyone who has supported this band through the years. You are the reason we’re still here, and that means everything!”
The band expects to announce a new member within a few weeks, and have them up to speed before their touring resumes in the New Year.
It’s hard to imagine Blue Highway without Rob, but no one doubts that they will carry on strongly with a new look and sound.