Leo Kottke – Acoustic Guitar Whiz

If anyone can genuinely be considered a leading contender for greatest acoustic guitarist ever, it is Leo Kottke. He released his first album, 12-String Blues in 1969. But it’s really been since the release later that year of 6 -and 12-String-Guitar that he truly became a force in acoustic folk and blues guitar.

Here’s a song from that album, “Vaseline Machine Gun,” next to which it says this – (Kottke has a strange sense of humor):

“For waking up nude in a sleeping bag on the shore of the Atlantic surrounded by a volleyball game at high noon, and 2) for the end of the volleyball game.”

Leo can sometimes get frenetic in his playing so I like when he slows down a little bit. He has a really nice album from 1999 called One Guitar, No Vocals. (Although not known as a singer, Kottke does occasionally make an attempt at it. He himself has compared his singing voice to “geese farts on a muggy day.”)

I have special affection for this tune, “Three/Quarter North.” Not only is it a beautiful song but I had found the sheet music in a guitar magazine a few years ago and at one point in time could play a modest approximation of it. Not enough to make you forget Kottke mind you. But enough to impress small children and the tone deaf:

My wife and I have seen Kottke play in intimate venues a couple of times. If you like his stuff and get a chance to see him, do so. He’s not some reserved guy but he is funny and charismatic, often giving bizarre monologues. But what do you expect from a guy with songs named “Vertical Trees” and “When Shrimps Learn to Whistle.”

Leo was a big fan of Duane Allman. He loved Duane’s tune, “Little Martha,” calling it “the most perfect guitar song ever written.” (Another song I can play given enough time and coaxed with enough beer.) Supposedly Duane had a dream where Jimi Hendrix showed him the melody of the tune in a Holiday Inn motel bathroom, using the sink faucet as a guitar fretboard. (I once had a similar dream but it was pretty much just Chuck Berry’s roadie showing me how to unclog the toilet.)

I’ll leave you here with Leo Kottke’s live version of Duane’s “Little Martha.” (You can listen to Duane’s original hereFrankly I prefer Duane’s simpler approach on this one but this is good.)

3 thoughts on “Leo Kottke – Acoustic Guitar Whiz

  1. OK you did it again. Bang on. I’ve seen Leo a couple times and you are right on. He is a huge talent and his humor is wonderful. I was just listening to him the other day. Man is his music good. His playing is off the charts but Jim, I love his voice and his singing and song writing. A hidden treasure for sure. Good one man


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