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Leo Kottke Biography

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Birth Name: Leo Kottke
Born: 1945/09/11
Birth Place: Athens, Georgia
Years Active: 1966 - present
Genres: Folk, Roots Music

Leo Kottke was born September 11, 1945 in Athens, Georgia and is an acoustic guitarist. He is known for his fingerpicking style, which incorporates influences from blues, jazz, and folk music. Growing up all over the states, Kottke cites the influence of Muskogee, Oklahoma, and the thriving folk and delta blues music that existed there. Of note is the musician John Hurt, who Kottke cites as a musical inspiration.

Kottke learned to play the trombone and violin as a child before her ventured onto the guitar. He dropped out of college to hitchhike around the country and busk for a living. In 1966 he landed a regular gig, performing at the Scholar Coffeehouse in the Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis.

Kottke’s debut album, “12-String Blues,” arrived on the independent label, Oblivion Records in 1969. By 1971, Kettle had caught the attention of Capitol Records, who released Kottke's first major label album, “Mudlark.”

1972 saw Kottke try his hand as a folk singer/songwriter rather than an instrumentalist, with the release of “Greenhouse” and the live albums, “My Feet Are Smiling” and “Ice Water.” These albums showcased Kottke’s eclectic abilities to cross musical genres, including folk, rock, jazz and bluegrass.

As the 1970s came to an end, Kottke had built a large cult following and switched labels in 1976 to Chrysalis Records. During the 1980s, Kottke’s playing and musical style was altered due to tendinitis and nerve damage, and as a result he changed his picking style to a classical style, changed the positioning of his right hand to place less stress on the tendons and studied more classical and jazz-oriented composition. Kottke also took a hiatus from the music world and moved to a smaller record label, Private Music. He returned in 1986 with “A Shout Toward Noon,” followed by “Regards from Chuck Pink” in 1988.

Over the next two decades, Kottke released albums regularly, toured, and collaborated with other artists, such as Lyle Lovett, Rickie Lee Jones, John Fahey, Chet Atkins, and Mike Gordon of the band Phish. Kottke and Gordon have gone on to work together as a duo releasing two albums, “Clone” in 2002 and “Sixty Six Steps” in 2005, and touring in support of both records. Kottke’s 23rd solo studio album, “Try and Stop Me,” appeared in 2004.