Red Light Management

Leo Kottke

Artist Bio

Acoustic guitarist Leo Kottke was born in Athens, Georgia, but left town after a year and a half. Raised in 12 different states, he absorbed a variety of musical influences as a child, flirting with both violin and trombone, before abandoning Stravinsky for the guitar at age 11.

After adding a love for the country-blues of Mississippi John Hurt to the music of John Phillip Sousa and Preston Epps, Kottke joined the Navy underage, to be underwater, and eventually lost some hearing shooting at lightbulbs in the Atlantic while serving on the USS Halfbeak, a diesel submarine.


Kottke had previously entered college at the U of Missouri, dropping out after a year to hitchhike across the country to South Carolina, then to New London and into the Navy, with his twelve string. “The trip was not something I enjoyed,” he has said, “I was broke and met too many interesting people.”


Discharged in 1964, he settled in the Twin Cities area and became a fixture at Minneapolis’ Scholar Coffeehouse, which had been home to Bob Dylan and John Koerner. He issued his 1968 recording debut LP Twelve String Blues, recorded on a Viking quarter-inch tape recorder, for the Scholar’s tiny Oblivion label. (The label released one other LP by The Langston Hughes Memorial Eclectic Jazz Band.)


After sending tapes to guitarist John Fahey, Kottke was signed to Fahey’s Takoma label, releasing what has come to be called the Armadillo record. Fahey and his manager Denny Bruce soon secured a production deal for Kottke with Capitol Records.


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. Still, despite arguments 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 honing his guitar technique.


With 1975’s Chewing Pine, Kottke reached the U.S. Top 30 for the second time; he also gained an international following thanks to his continuing tours in Europe and Australia.


His┬ácollaboration with Phish bassist Mike Gordon, “Clone,” caught audiences’ attention in 2002. Kottke and Gordon followed with a recording in the Bahamas called “Sixty Six Steps,” produced by Leo’s old friend and Prince producer David Z.


Kottke has been awarded two Grammy nominations; a Doctorate in Music Performance by the Peck School of Music at the U of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; and a Certificate of Significant Achievement in Not Playing the Trombone from the U of Texas at Brownsville with Texas Southmost College.



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Tour Dates

Oct 20 2019
Aladdin Theater
Portland, OR
Oct 22 2019
Dimitriou's Jazz Alley
Seattle, WA
Oct 23 2019
Dimitriou's Jazz Alley
Seattle, WA
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Oct 25 2019
Tower Theatre
Bend, OR
Nov 02 2019
Buckman Performing Arts Center
Memphis, TN
Nov 03 2019
City Winery
Nashville, TN
Nov 05 2019
The Lyric Theatre
Birmingham, AL
Nov 06 2019
Variety Playhouse
Atlanta, GA
Nov 08 2019
Harvester Performance Center
Rocky Mount, VA
Nov 09 2019
The Barns at Wolf Trap
Vienna, VA
Nov 10 2019
Modlin Center for the Arts
Richmond, VA
Nov 22 2019
Fargo Theatre
Fargo, ND
Nov 23 2019
Orpheum Theater Center
Sioux Falls, SD
Nov 25 2019
Guthrie Theater
Minneapolis, MN
Feb 01 2020
Sheldon Theatre
Red Wing, MN