Born in 1945 in Athens, Georgia, Leo Kottke played the trombone before taking up guitar at age 11. He was inspired as much by the finger picking of Mississippi John Hurt and Merle Travis as the compositions of JS Bach and Igor Stravinski.
Mesmerised by the sound of the 12-string, he acquired a Gibson B-45, with which he recorded a scratchy demo tape. Upon sending this to John Fahey's Takoma Records label, Kottke became a folk-guitar sensation.
Using a thumb-pick and fingers (although he's become as nimble with just fingers), his playing is based on driving banjo-like rolls embellished with quirky melodies, aided sometimes by a bottleneck. Have a go at this tune, which is in G tuning (low to high: DGDGBD). It's at a typical Kottke tempo - pretty fast!
Leo's main guitar is the Taylor Leo Kottke Signature Model. We used an old Framus 12-string for the recording.
Click 'see all pictures' in the picture box for full-sized tab.
Audio - Tutorial track