are five musicians with a love of Mexican music, especially the older, acoustic forms indigenous to various parts of the country which predate modern pop music and the commercial recording industry. None of us play exclusively Mexican music; we each came to it through other musical styles and experience. Our individual stories here.
Around 2004 Frank moved to Kinvara, Co. Galway about the same time Pete did. Paul, Eileen, and John had already been living and playing various kinds of music there. We all found common ground, with many other local musicians as well, in various forms of music, from Cajun and old-time Appalachian, to traditional Irish music, tango, and jazz. Sometime around 2008, Frank broached the idea of playing Mexican music--music he had explored in his home state of Indiana with his fiddling buddy Claudio, who had introduced him to the music of orquestas de cuerdas (stringband music) with harmony fiddles. Never was there more enthusiastic a response. Paul had been playing Norteño music on accordeon with John, who had a strong desire to sing en Easpañol. Pete had been fascinated with Latin guitar and eager to play fiddle. Eileen had been exploring exotic forms on her Celtic harp, particularly South American music.
A guitarron was found in Kieran Maloney's shop, where John found a bajo sexto--two Mexican instruments, made in China, purchased in Galway! It's a global village! Frank later picked up a vihuela in San Antonio, Texas, while visiting his sister and brother. Later still, three musicians from Veracruz came to Kinvara for several appearances, playing music on jaranas (small Son Jarocho guitars). Having already been entranced with musica Veracruzano, Paul ordered a handmade jarana from one of the visiting muscicians, who happened to make them. Over a few years, The Gringo Stars added to the already authentic fiddle and accordion sounds.
The band name came from Johnny Moynihan, an early member of the group. We have been warned, on the one hand, that 'gringo' can be an offensive term in some contexts. And we have been reassured, on the other, that the really bad connotations barely linger at all these days. In any case we like the jokey reference to one of the Fab Four, as well as the designation of non-Mexicans (mostly true--Frank's mother was from Guadalajara) with a Mexican word. It puts us right on the edge of the beautiful culture--playing this music we love, but coming from an outsider's perspective.