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Leo Kottke

Innovative acoustic guitar virtuoso Leo Kottke was born September 11, 1945, in Athens, GA. Raised in 12 different states, he absorbed a variety of musical influences as a child, flirting with both violin and trombone before trying his hand at the guitar at age 11. After developing a love for the country-blues of Mississippi John Hurt, Kottke lost much of the hearing in his left ear as a result of a mishap with a firecracker; during a later tenure in the Naval Reserve, his right ear suffered permanent damage during firing practice.

Discharged due to his impairment, Kottke entered college, dropping out after several years to hitchhike across the country as an itinerant musician. After settling in the Twin Cities area and becoming a fixture on the city's folk club circuit, he issued his 1969 debut LP, Twelve String Blues, recorded live at Minneapolis' Scholar Coffee House, on the tiny Oblivion label. After sending 1970's Circle 'Round the Sun to guitarist John Fahey, Kottke was signed by Fahey's manager Denny Bruce, who soon secured a deal with Capitol.

Kottke's 1971 major-label debut, Mudlark, positioned him somewhat uneasily in the singer/songwriter vein, despite his own wishes to remain an instrumental performer; in the liner notes to 1972's 6- and 12-String Guitar, issued on Fahey's Takoma label, he even described his own voice as "geese f*rts on a muggy day." Still, despite battles with label heads as well as with Bruce, Kottke flourished during his tenure on Capitol, as records like 1972's Greenhouse and 1973's live My Feet Are Smiling and Ice Water found him branching out with guest musicians and unusual song covers drawing on folk, rock, jazz, and bluegrass, all the while honing his propulsive fingerpicking mastery.

With 1975's Chewing Pine, Kottke reached the U.S. Top 50 for the first time; he also gained an international cult following thanks to his performances at folk festivals the world over. With his 1976 self-titled release, he moved to the Chrysalis label, although sales diminished for LPs including 1978's Burnt Lips, 1979's Balance, and 1980's Live in Europe. After 1983's T-Bone Burnett-produced Time Step, Kottke's contract with Chrysalis ended, and he moved over to the independent Private Music label.

Kottke's powerful technique, combined with his prolific output and extensive touring schedule, resulted in a lingering pain in his hands that began to hamper his playing in the middle of the 1980s. Consequently, the beginning of his tenure on Private Music coincided with the beginnings of a shift in technique closer to classical guitar performance; he also slowed his productivity, and after 1986's reflective A Shout Toward Noon, he did not re-enter the studio before recording Regards from Chuck Pink in 1988.

Simultaneously, Kottke cut back dramatically on his live schedule, settling comfortably into his role as a cult figure. He released an album annually from 1989 to 1991, following My Father's Face with That's What and finally Great Big Boy, which featured a guest appearance from Lyle Lovett. Two years later, Kottke returned with Peculiaroso, which featured production by Rickie Lee Jones. The solo One Guitar, No Vocals followed in 1999, but it was his collaboration with Phish bassist Mike Gordon, Clone, that caught audiences' attention in 2002. Kottke returned to the solo realm with 2004's Try and Stop Me, released on Bluebird. In 2005, Kottke collaborated with Phish bassist Mike Gordon on Sixty Six Steps. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Instrumentals: The Best Of The Chrysalis Years

1. Airproofing

2. Waltz

3. Death By Reputation

4. The Fisherman

5. Up Tempo

6. A Low Thud

7. Orange Room

8. Whine

9. Dolores

10. The Train And The Gate

11. Open Country Joy : Theme And Adhesions

12. Wheels (live)

13. Palms Blvd.

14. Strange

15. Jib's Hat

16. All I Have To Do Is Dream

17. Memories Are Made Of This

18. Little Martha

x

Track List: Instrumentals - The Best Of The Capitol Years

1. June Bug

2. Ice Miner

3. Poor Boy

4. Machine #2

5. Bean Time

6. In Christ There Is No East Or West

7. Owls

8. Lost John

9. Blue Dot

10. Eggtooth

12. Mona Ray

13. Twilight Property

14. Taking A Sandwich To A Feast

15. A Good Egg

16. A Child Should Be A Fish

17. The Scarlatti Rip-Off

18. Grim To The Brim

x

Track List: The Leo Kottke Anthology

x

Track List: Standing In My Shoes

1. Standing In My Shoes

2. World Turning

3. Dead End

4. Vaseline Machine Gun

5. Corrina, Corrina

6. Realm

7. Cripple Creek

8. Twice

9. Across The Street

10. Don't Call Me Ray

11. Itchy

x

Track List: Great Big Boy

1. Running Up The Stairs

2. The Other Day (Near Santa Cruz)

3. Great Big Boy

4. Driver

5. Pepe Hush

6. Big Mob On The Hill

7. Ice Cream

8. Nothin' Works

9. Summer's Growing Old

10. I Still Miss Someone

x

Track List: Time Step

3. Rings

4. Mr. Fonebone

5. Julie's House

6. Memories Are Made Of This

11. Here Comes That Rainbow Again

x

Track List: Guitar Music

1. Part Two

2. Available Space

3. Side One Suite: Some Birds

4. Side One Suite: Sounds Like...Slang

5. Side One Suite: Slang

6. Side One Suite: My Double

7. Side One Suite: Three Walls And Bars

8. Side One Suite: Reprise: Some Birds

9. Perforated Sleep

10. Strange

11. Little Shoes

12. Jib's Hat

13. Tumbling Tumbleweeds

14. Agile N.

15. A Song For

16. All I Have To Do Is Dream

17. Sleep Walk

x

Track List: Balance

1. Tell Mary

3. Embryonic Journey

5. Whine

8. Dolores

10. Learning The Game

x

Track List: Mudlark

x

Track List: 6- And 12-String Guitar

1. The Driving Of The Year Nail

2. The Last Of The Arkansas Greyhounds

3. Ojo

4. Crow River Waltz

5. The Sailor's Grave On The Prairie

6. Vaseline Machine Gun

7. Jack Fig

8. Watermelon

9. Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring

10. The Fisherman

11. The Tennessee Toad

12. Busted Bicycle

13. The Brain Of The Purple Mountain

14. Coolidge Rising

x

Track List: Essential Leo Kottke

1. Up Tempo

2. Embryonic Journey

3. Rings

4. Mr. Fonebone

5. Julie's House

7. Sonora's Death Row

8. Learning The Game

9. The White Ape

10. Buckaroo

11. Tell Mary

12. Airproofing

13. Part Two

14. Agile N.

15. Tumbling Tumbleweeds

16. Sleepwalk

18. Little Shoes

19. The Train And The Gate: From Terry's Movie

20. All I Have To Do Is Dream

21. Frank Forgets

22. Here Comes That Rainbow Again

x

Track List: Try And Stop Me

1. Monopoly

2. Stolen

3. Mockingbird Hill

4. Then

5. Mora Roa

6. Axolotl

7. Bristol Sloth

8. Unbar

9. Jesus Maria

10. Gewerbegebiet

11. The Banks Of Marble

Comments

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Brilliant...
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rjh_dgm
Used to sell Leo i ported parts for his alpha romeo spider,.. When he lived in Minnesota. Super nice guy and the best
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He was opening for Loggins and Messina the first time I saw him in San Antonio, Tx. Next time was in Austin at the Paramount 20 years later. He's a funny guy. Said I didn't get out much. He was amazing in both concerts. A true master.
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wafitzgibbon
Thank you for the hours of joy .
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Thanks to Garrison Keillor for bringing Leo Kottke to my attention, 30 years ago.. Saw Kottke in the SF Civic Center, last nite... He spellbound the audinence for 1 and 3/4 hours. A Master.
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33vine
He's an influential artist and you can hear him and the late Michael Hedges in many of today's great acoustic players. Wish I had an ounce of his talent.
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He is awesome, plus we share a birthday. Makes him even more awesome
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I have been a fan of since 1971. I purchased a cheap 12 string thinking that I play like Leo in a g tuning but it never happened. I play a six string and finally learned to tune that. But thanks Leo, you got me to listen to the slide blues and Fahey and others. See you this winter.

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lesliepoeale x a n
I have seen him twice, once in Germany and many years later in Austin. Although he has lost some of his ability, he is still a terrific performer, and I still love to hear him sing.
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stoker.carol
Saw him in the mid 70s at UC Davis - memorable show! I was enthralled with his playing.
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On a cold January night in 1970, I saw Leo play for two hours at the Whole Coffeehouse in Coffman Union at the U of MN. It was magical then--from six feet away, no less--and his playing remains so now.
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Leo is like Hawaii...you better go see him at least once in your life.
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One of my favorites
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fishsqzr7
STILL WAITING TO HEAR LEO SING AND/OR TALK!!! Pandora obviously thinks too much of their own opinions to listen to their listeners and that SUCKS!
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Have loved the man,what his brain lets his fingers do, and his anecdotal humor since 6 & 12 string on Takoma. Finally got to see him last year at the Woodstock Opera House in Ilinois, A wonderfully intimate theater! Still has his chops and story-tellin g more than intact!
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I had a chance to see Leo in Appleton WI in the early 80's. Just awesome. Only other guitarist I have heard live that comes close is Willy Porter. My guess is that he was inspired by Kottke.
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Leo Kottke is amazing. There were quite a few guitarists who weren't on the RS list, and there were ones near the bottom of the list that should have been closer to the top.
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fishsqzr7
Is Pandora ever going to let Leo sing???? Slacker plays ALL Leo's stuff, not just the instrumental s .
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Somebody mentioned that Leo Kottke and Danny Gatton weren't on RS magazine's list of top 100 guitarists. And that is why RS magazine is irrelevant as are their lists. About as relevant as the R&R HoF, which is a joke too.
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Tttds
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Liuo
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Kcasfu
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alohakghi
Just wanted to say how much I love this man and his guitar, again!
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Soo Beautiful
Makes me feel like I'm on a journey in the blue sky
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1st date with my wife was Leo Kottke at Mountain View Winery in California. The wine and full moon under the stars in no way competed with Leo's magic.
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janis1351
It's true, Leo Kottke is the real deal. Without hours/days/m o n t h s of trying to say it correctly, it is difficult to share the many happy hours of listening, and the admiration for his artistry and guitar playing. I have seen him many times, from The Wort Hotel in Jackson Hole to the first time I saw him at the St. Louis Opera House, he warmed up for Stephen Stills. I asked my friend where the rest of the band was because I could not believe all that music could come from one guitar.
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Just beautiful and awe inspiring
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Takes me on a rollorcoaste r ride
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wow!!! From the Heart!!! Awsome.....
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jdsteckling
This man is the reason I changed from guitar to bass in the 70's!
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The reason that they don't play Leo's vocals is because they sound like, in Leo's own words, geese f*rts on a muggy day.
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I saw Kottke play a beautiful song at a memorial service for a friend who died a few months ago. It was at an American Legion, where they were having a bingo game in the next room. Every few seconds, during this very quiet and moving song, there came a voice over the PA, B-TWELVE!!!! (Quiet guitar song...) O-SEVENTY-TH R E E ! ! ! !
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fishsqzr7
Are you ever going to put some of Leo's vocals on Pandora? Why must I switch to Slacker to hear sing?????
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tesladriver
Leo and John Prine have have been my favorites for years. It'd be grand if they could get together on some songs.
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ajewelersart
Very fond memories decades ago, of a performance in OKC on May avenue in an old movie theater. He sat solemnly on stag with multiple guitars around him and he just played. Played without hype or drama, and very little talking. He played the best guitar I have ever been privileged to hear. Thank you for that wonderful experience and memory.
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mccnumber2so n
Heard 6 & 12 String LP in early `1971: wondered if it was 1 or 2 guys playing. Changed my definition of fingerstyle guitar forever.
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rastawittay
I first heard of Leo when I was an exchange student in West Germany in 1974. He was much loved there! I still have one of his LP's someplace too!
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They never play Jesus joy of mans desiring WHY? Religious P C ? Saw Carlos Montoya live in Oakland. Leo would have given him a run for his money. Or they could have done a duiet together Carlos on the Flaminco and Leo on the Dobro what an imaginary dream. The joy of my desiring.
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Listening to Girl from North Country .....what a wonderful interpretati o n of this Dylan classic ...
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Leo Kottke gave a fabulous concert in Sandpoint, ID last night
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fishsqzr7
Why do you NEVER play Leo's vocals? He can't sing (said himself that his voice sounds like geese f*rts on a cloudy day), but he still did some great songs you guys are ignoring. A bit elitist, I think!
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denevanp
Pretty much sat at his feet in Marin CA. early 1970. Enthralled. Still has that effect on me.
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An original thinker who just loves sounds, songs, and melodies, sometimes sounding like a machine slightly out of control... A true American hero.

deafness is interesting
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mnymtrs
First met Leo in 1972 on 6 & 12 string Guitar (on vinyl, no less) while making love all night to a beautiful nymph at U of ILL. What music, what a night! His voice leaves something to be desired, but so did Dylan's. He also came to Cornell College in '73 for a live gig and I sat 30 feet away and hoped all night he would play Watermelon but no cigar. He must have been having an off night 'cause he kinda sucked. But, maybe his hands were hurting, in any case, great guy and funny live. Bought lots
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I wish there was a way to like this artist a hundred times. Kottke is the real deal.
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cef1953
My little brother turned me onto Leo K. in the 70's and i have loved him ( Leo ) every since

Love my bro too.. ha ha
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@fishsqzr7 -- If you want specific songs featuring Leo Kotke's voice, type in the title of the song in the search box. If that still isn't enough, consider Rhapsody, which will allow you to customize your music choices.

Having said that, Pandora is FREE with commercials; it is $36 per year without any commercials, and a great value for the money.

Rhapsody is $120 per year... Enough said.
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laskiblue
I adore Leo Kottke!
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fishsqzr7
Do you fools ever play Leo Kottke SINGING??? Yeah, his voice sucks but his lyrics are often quite interesting, and his spoken stories are hilarious. I have yet to hear anything but Leo's guitar (which is great) and I am getting a bit upset. My first day on Pandora is less impressive than I hoped.
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Super Nice Guy with great sense of humor; somewhat reserved/qui e t . Oh yes, he can play the guitar!
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