Iowa State Daily (April 7, 1999)

Legendary Leo returns to Ames

by Corey Moss, Daily Staff Writer

      Guitar virtuoso Leo Kottke is the first to admit he's not a singer.

      In the liner notes of his 1972 record, "Six and Twelve-String Guitar," Kottke describes his voice as "geese farts on a foggy [sic] day."

      Still, the 54-year-old musician has managed to make a career out of a toy he picked up when he was 11.

      On his over 25 records, Kottke has discovered more innovative ways to pluck six strings than his mentor, Mississippi John Hurt, could have dreamed of.

      Overcoming two ear-damaging incidents during his teen years, Kottke took on music as a hitchhiking folkster in his mid-20s. Settling in the Twin Cities area, he was discovered by guitarist John Fahey and his manager, who signed Kottke to Capitol Records.

      Kottke spent the next two decades rewriting the acoustic guitar player's handbook and living the stories he would go on to tell so poetically in his '90s club tours.

      In recent years, plagued by a lingering pain in his hands, Kottke has slowed down his record-a-year pace, comfortably squeezing into the role of cult figure.

      In 1997, Kottke modernized folk by recording "Standing In My Shoes" with former Prince sideman David Z. Composed with more groove and vocal charm than Kottke had ever set free, the record fascinated critics and Kottke followers.

      Leo, as his fans call him, also recently wrote and recorded the music for a children's storybook album of "Paul Bunyan," read by Jonathan Winters.

      Kottke will make his annual visit to the Maintenance Shop tonight and Thursday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14, $12 for students.

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