– Steve McGinnis seems to draw people to him no matter where he
The five-year Gilroy resident with the big, burly red beard
attracts company whether he is riding a train or playing his tuba
on stage with his long-time band mates. McGinnis is a fun guy to be
around and that’s probably why his fellow musicians in the party
have stuck with him for the past 30 years.
Gilroy – Steve McGinnis seems to draw people to him no matter where he goes.
The five-year Gilroy resident with the big, burly red beard attracts company whether he is riding a train or playing his tuba on stage with his long-time band mates. McGinnis is a fun guy to be around and that’s probably why his fellow musicians in the party band “The Internationals” have stuck with him for the past 30 years.
“We do what a lot of bands don’t do. We split everything. We are equal,” McGinnis said. “There is no band leader. We vote on decisions and make them together. You can ask any one of us and we will call it ‘my band.’ ”
McGinnis’ instrument of choice is the tuba, a big instrument for a big guy, and the deep bass of the brass reflects the deep hearty, laugh McGinnis often gives off. He admits, though, the tuba wasn’t his first choice.
“I wanted to play the trombone,” he said. “But my father, who was a band director, told me to play the tuba.”
Band mates Bobby Maggiora, Jan Meere and Portor Goltz met McGinnis back in college at California State University, Chico.
They all have their specialty instrument; Maggiora on accordion, Meere on a variety of horns and saxophones, and Portor on drums, but each member shares vocal responsibilities. The boys, as they enjoy referring to themselves, gather together to play music from around the world. And they do play all around the world.
In 1997, the group toured Europe to help celebrate the 600th anniversary of their favorite beer, Spaten. They’ve also entertained on cruise ships to Mexico and the Caribbean.
One popular venue for the group is, not surprisingly, a German restaurant in downtown San Jose. On special occasions, the group dresses up in traditional German lederhosen, complete with knee high socks, green shorts and vests. Teske’s Germania invites the band to play at least twice a month, but in October the band can play as many as 22 gigs as restaurants such as Gilroy’s J.R. Brewski’s look for Oktoberfest entertainment.
“Having people enjoy what we do,” is the real reason the band stays together, McGinnis said. “They might come in a bad mood and 15 minutes later they have forgotten about it. It’s happy music.”
One crowd pleaser is the Cowboy Yodel, a challenging song for McGinnis since after each verse the music speeds up and his yodel has to speed up with it. Although they do play some German polka-esque music, the versatile musicians cover songs from such artists as Louie Armstrong and Patsy Cline, and perform other popular hits.
“Sometimes we’ll get challenged to a song,” McGinnis said. “That’s how we got started doing ‘Moondance.’ Someone asked us to do it and we said ‘Next time you see Van Morrison ask him to do the beer barrel polka.”
McGinnis even gave friends from Caltrain a taste of his yodeling ability. He took to riding the train to a job in Redwood City after he and his wife, Linda, moved to Gilroy.
“We wanted to get out of the hustle and bustle of the big city,” McGinnis said, of living in Los Gatos. “To a smaller community that is now rapidly growing.”
Riding the train proved a great way to make new friends and McGinnis started a weekly Thursday night party complete with beer, wine, food and the occasion yodel to entertain people while the ride home took twice as long due to railroad construction.
McGinnis came up with a great Christmas gift to his commuter pals. He persuaded his band mates to hop on the train at the Redwood City station and play all the way to Gilroy.
While McGinnis no longer rides the train since he recently switched jobs and works in San Carlos, the annual train concert has become a tradition.
He and his wife open their Gilroy home to anyone who wants to continue the party after the train pulls into the station.
“It’s something we look forward to,” McGinnis said. “It’s a little giving back to the community.”
If you’d like to see McGinnis in action, visit www.theinternationals.com for their upcoming gigs.