A cult figure among guitarists, Leo Kottke (b. 1945) has long been famous for his virtuosity on the acoustic guitar. His music is a personal type of folk music that is influenced a bit by the blues and the improvised nature of jazz.
Kottke started off playing music on the trombone and violin before settling on guitar. He developed his own unusual style early in life. Although a firecracker permanently damaged his hearing in one ear, he developed into a skilled musician. Kottke served in the Naval Reserve, attended St. Cloud State University, and became infamous around campus for constantly skipping classes so as to play his guitar for hours on end. Kottke became a master of both the six and 12-string guitars, using his own unusual tunings. He also sang now and then although his guitar playing was always on a much higher level.
Leo Kottke debuted on records in 1968 and his most famous album, 1969’s 6-and 12-String Guitar, was recorded for Takoma and is in the Concord/Fantasy catalog. It consists entirely of Kottke’s picturesque originals (other than "Bach’s "Jesu: Joy of Man’s Desiring”). Nearly 40 years later, it is still thought of as Leo Kottke’s definitive album and a brilliant example of acoustic finger-style guitar.
After the release of 6-and 12 String-Guitar, Kottke performed his unclassifiable music at many concerts. After continued success, he was faced by an early 1980s bout with tendonitis to alter his playing to a somewhat more classical approach that was later considered a predecessor to New Age, although his performances really do not fit into that limited genre.
A living legend, Leo Kottke is still active, occupying his own musical world.