Sep 3, 2013 10:00 PM by Jeanette Trompeter
There's a guy on the Central Coast who is likely part of some of the more memorable days in your life. Louie Ortega has been performing at weddings, parties, wineries, patios, bars and restaurants for decades. And the more you know about him, the more you realize, he's more proof There's No Place Like Home.
Louie Ortega is a Central Coast long-timer. That's just fine with him and his fans, but it wasn't part of the plan when he first arrived here.
Ortega was actually born in Santa Maria but spent most of his elementary and high school years in Salinas Valley. That's where he started his first band, Louie and the Lovers. It is also where he and his high school friends got a their first record deal with Columbia Records. Two years later he moved to Atlantic records and four decades of music adventures followed.
It was a stop near his home town in 1972 that led him to a gig in San Luis Obispo that would root him to the Central Coast from then on. "A friend of ours said 'You know, I've got a friend that works down at this place called Cigar Factory. He says maybe we'll stop there and have a little bite and see him." says Ortega. That friend was Ian McPhee who offered them a happy hour gig for a band who had cancelled happy hour entertainment. "I always tell him, we stopped for a beer and never left."
In the early 80's is musical mentor Doug Som asked him to go back out on the road with the Sir Douglass Quintet. That launched him into a group called the Texas Tornadoes, and Grammy for the a song Louie translated into English for the father of their accordion player.
The Movie Tin Cup brought another thrill: a soundtrack credit in a major movie.
"A little bit is better than Nada", an Ortega song recorded with the Texas Tornadoes plays in the opening scene of the movie. "That was pretty wild." says Louie looking back. "Seeing that little armadillo crossing the freeway...." That also meant playing for a lot of the music industry's A-list
All of it came with his feet planted firmly on Central Coast soil. And despite opportunities elsewhere, Louie likes being based right here. "I raised my family here. I've always been grounded here. Plus we have a little airport, so I can just jump on go where I want to go, and you know, do my business from here." says Ortega.
He plays several nights a week at local watering holes, bay cruises, wineries and weddings, and almost everyone has a good memory tied to his music. "You know sometimes I'll do other people's material, but I'll do it like the way I feel it, or I hear it. Then my stuff is kind of loose."
While he doesn't have a lot of Wander lust, he doesn't quit writing or wondering about what's next...what might come out of his heart and his stories that he puts to music. "Someone asked me recently, 'So you been playing all your life?' I said not yet." Louie chuckles. "I feel like some of my best work is ready to come out. I do."
Ortega is recording a new CD with some of his old band mates from Salsa Brava. They're together again in the group Rio Salinas.
Who knows what's next for him, and the guys he's been playing with for decades. But one thing is for sure, he'll always be coming back to the Central Coast. This is hi home, and fortunately, he knows there's no place like it.
Lucky for us. To have gems like him, right in our own backyard.
For more on Louie Ortega or to see when he's playing near you, click here.
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