Louie Ortega’s latest tour must seem like a working vacation.
Consider the destinations: The musician just got back from a cruise to the Caribbean, and he’ll play a Morro Bay harbor cruise on Sept. 30. In between, he’s got four dates scheduled at another vacation destination: Cambria.
Following a solo show Friday at the Cambria Pub and Steakhouse, he’s got two performances with his full band set for Saturday and Sunday at Cambria Center for the Arts Theatre. Then, on Tuesday, he’s playing the Cambria Pines Lodge.
The CCAT shows will feature Ortega’s daughter Talia, a 22-year-old Cuesta College student, on vocals and flute.
Louie and Talia Ortega both live in San Luis Obispo and perform together as Ortega.
“It’s really wonderful that we both share the special emotion for music and love performing together,” Louie Ortega said. “Naturally, I’m a very proud father.”
He added that the Pines is a familiar venue for his daughter.
“Talia made her debut with me at the Cambria Pines Lodge at the age of 4,” Ortega recalled. “She was at the house or in my vehicle while I was learning a new composition … she learned it as well.
“We stay up at the Lodge occasionally. I was quite surprised that evening in Cambria when she asked if she could sing ‘Rosa Maria’ with me — a very special moment for the both of us. She received a standing ovation.”
Like his daughter, Ortega has been performing music since an early age.
“As long as I can remember, I’ve always loved music,” he said. “I started playing guitar with friends in garage bands in my teen years. Then realized I could carry a tune and write my own songs. I think we’re all influenced by our surroundings and life experiences. My songs reflect that.”
Louie Ortega’s music career spans more than three decades, beginning in 1969 as front man for Louie and the Lovers. His band released an album in 1970, “Rise,” after being discovered by Doug Sahm, whose Sir Douglas Quintet had a top-20 Billboard hit in 1965 with “She’s About a Mover.”
“He discovered us when we were still in high school,” Ortega said of Sahm. “We had a little four-piece group called Country Fresh, and we did a demo on cassette. The bass player in the group lived down the street from Doug, and he took the casette down to his wife, Violet.”
Impressed with their sound, she played the cassette — featuring songs Ortega had written and arranged — for her husband at breakfast. Sahm was so taken with it that he took the cassette up to San Francisco and got the band a record deal with Columbia Records. Ortega was just 17 at the time, and the group’s drummer was 14 years old.
“Rise,” which features 11 tracks, was recorded in just 18 hours. (Four bonus cuts were added to the re-release.) Ortega still plays some selections from that album in his shows.
According to Ortega, Sahm came up with the name “Louie and the Lovers” on the spot.
After Louie and the Lovers broke up, Ortega teamed up with Sahm on a series of projects, forming the Texas Tornados with him in 1989. The Tex-Mex supergroup, which also featured Freddie Fender, Augie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez, won a Grammy Award in 1990 for best Mexican-American performance.
“He always kept me under his wing,” Ortega said of Sahm, who died in 1999. “He liked the way I sang with him and the way I played guitar. We just turned out to be really good friends.
“Doug was really responsible for bringing Willie Nelson back into the spotlight, and he brought Freddie Fender back, too.”’
Ortega’s style is an eclectic mix of Tex-Mex, garage rock, country and other influences. For instance, his 2009 album “Classics” featured distinctive covers of The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors” and Fender’s “Before the Next Teardrop Falls.”
Ortega’s other solo releases include 1994’s “County Line” and 1997’s “In My Heart.” His compositions “Amor de mi Vida” and “Mi Morenita” appeared on the Texas Tornados’ 1996 album, “Four Aces.”
Expect some of that eclectic mix at his CCAT shows, which will feature Mark Roberts on cajon and bass; Bill Flores on mandolin, dobro, violin and accordion; and Ken Hustad on stand-up bass and vocals. Hustad teaches at Cuesta College, and Flores tours with Jeff Bridges.
“We have a different set list for each performance that we’ll be delivering for our shows at the CCAT,” Ortega said. “We’ll be doing some original material, Latin/Cuban-influenced material, classic rock, jazz and adding our own Ortega spice to all these genres.”
Louie and Talia Ortega will be going into the studio soon to do an Ortega record. Then, after the New Year, he’ll be heading down to Austin, Texas, to record the next Louie Ortega release. His long and successful career shows no sign of slowing up.
“Someone once asked me if I’d been playing my whole life,” he said. “I answered, ‘Not yet.’ ”