MARQUETTE - It was fate, Steve Jones said, that he and fellow guitarist Bob Hiltunen wound up playing in a band together.
That band - Steve Jones and the Garden City Hot Club - is on its way on a tour that will take it to the East Coast and then Detroit. Just before leaving for the big cities, the group did a show in Marquette this past Tuesday.
How fate brought them together came after the first meeting of the two Copper Country residents.
Guitarists from Garden City Hot Club, from left, Bob Hiltunen and Steve Jones, play with guest Gerald Kippola at The Dog House in downtown Marquette recently. Copper Country-based GCHC is taking its Gypsy style jazz on tour this spring. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
"The first time we met was in 2002. I was home visiting from Connecticut and Bob was playing at the Ramada (in Hancock)," Jones said in a telephone interview. "I sat in and played a few songs with him and really enjoyed it."
Fast forward to 2009. Jones again was on his way for a visit with family and had to travel through Minneapolis to get to Houghton.
"I saw this guy on the moving walkway with a guitar strapped to his back and he looked familiar. I knew I knew him. Then he went to the same gate I did," Jones said. The two started talking and realized they'd already shared a stage.
"Our flight was canceled due to weather and we had like 23 hours until the next one we could take," he said. "So we were stuck in the airport together. We took turns sleeping and guarding each other's stuff. We hung out.
"When I decided to move back home, I knew I wanted to play music with him," Jones said. "It was fate."
Eagle River native Jones met bassist Scott McIntosh through local music legend Rob Fritz and that created the lineup for Garden City.
A guitar player since age 7, Jones has entered a national competition sponsored by the Guitar Center and first place in the East Coast Regional Finals at the House of Blues in Cambridge, Mass. He ended up a national first runner-up in the national finals in Las Vegas.
While he was achieving success with bands on the East Coast, in late 2010, Jones decided to move home.
"There were a lot of different factors involved in that decision," Jones said. "Cost of living and things like that. But it was mainly for family reasons. My ex-wife had moved back home and I wanted to be close to my kids."
Jones has four children ages 11 to 18.
"Once I did, I knew it was the best thing that could ever have happened," he said. "I can spend time with my kids, still go on the road to play and then come back home and hide if I want to."
Hiltunen, who hails from Dollar Bay, played in a variety of bands, listing his music teacher Paul McKaig, as a big influence. Groups he has been in through the years include the Dave Brotherton Band, Variance, the Pasi Cats and the Outlaws, along with The Humidors.
While he spent his early years in Houghton, McIntosh and his family led a somewhat nomadic life before settling in Racine, Wis. Eventually, he made his way back to the Copper Country, joining in that area's music scene in 2004.
The band's website, www.gardencityhotclub.com, offers this description of its music:
"Using the 'Gypsy Swing' of Django Reinhardt as their base, the GCHC bring their intensity and joyful approach to original compositions, old jazz standards, modern Roma-influenced music, swing-based novelty songs, blues, and anything else that sounds good."
And about that band name?
"The 'Hot Club' relates to the Django Reinhardt style of music," Jones said. "And 'Garden City' is the name of the road I live on."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org