Steve Ortiz: Welcome to the Library of My Life

Singer, musician and storyteller Steve Ortiz will perform songs from his newest CD, “Welcome to the Library of My Life,” at two free performances coming up this month.

Ortiz will play at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 17, at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, said customer relations manager Mike Westendorf. The store is at 5377 Tamiami Trail in the Waterside Shops in Naples. Call 598-5200 for details.
On Friday, Jan. 24, Ortiz will appear at 6:30 p.m. at the Collier Collier Library Headquarters at 2385 Orange Blossom Drive. Library spokeswoman Denise McMahon encouraged early sign up because seating is limited. The number is 593-0177.

“‘Welcome to the Library of My Life’ is a new approach to storytelling,” Ortiz explained in an interview this week. “The CD is the biography of my life and of my family, which has been in show business since the late 1800s.”

Ortiz narrates tales of his grandparents, parents and other relatives as they toured New Mexico and the southwest in a covered wagon circus, performing magic, music and comedy.

Ortiz’ songs and stories are a recreation of the characters and memories that have been passed down to him over the generations.

“It is filled with adventure, heartbreak, poverty, laughter and even a murder that took place in front of an audience,” according to the liner notes.

The Ortiz family performed vaudeville shows in just about every venue they could — like barns, schools and opera houses.

During much of his performance, Ortiz, accompanied only by his guitar, wears make-up that evokes that long ago circus era.

A prolific songwriter, Ortiz has penned tunes for recording artists including country legend Eddy Arnold. Arnold recorded “Poor Boy,” a song Ortiz wrote as a youth.

“That song was based on incidents that happened to me when I was a boy. It was quite a surprise when I got the call from Eddy Arnold telling me he was interested in the song,” said Ortiz, who can sing in four languages.

His memories also include juggling lessons from his grandmother, and hanging out with one of the country’s first human cannonball performers.

“That cannon is now in the Ringling Brothers Museum in Sarasota,” he said.

His long career in music has taken him all over the world, and includes appearances on the Tonight Show and the Late Show with David Letterman. Ortiz also played at the Sands in Las Vegas in the 60s, sharing the stage with big names like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. Other highlights include playing background music in the movie “Scenes from a Mall” that starred Bette Midler and Woody Allen.

Ortiz has sons who are also musicians that perform in Goodland and Marco Island.

“To this day, you’ll find a member of the Ortiz family in some corner of the world singing or telling jokes,” Steve Ortiz wrote on the back of his newest release.

Some proceeds from sales of the CD will go to local childrens charities, Ortiz said.

Ortiz is also tentatively set to perform at Florida Gulf Coast University at a date to be determined.

Ortiz plays every Wednesday at Amigo’s Cafe at 11263 Tamiami Trail East. Call 732-5655 for show times. He also makes occasional appearances at the Hilton on Marco Island.

©Marco Island Sun Times 2003

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