Leo Kottke advance

The legendary Leo Kottke will make his Ellensburg debut on Sept. 27 at the Wayne S. Hertz Concert Hall. Tickets are available at at Jerrol’s or online at lmmo.org or at the door.

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He blew onto the scene during a time when every kid in the country wanted to play guitar. When American legends like Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman were taking on the likes of British superstars Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. The blues were revisited and guys like Freddy, Albert, and B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters getting their due.

It was a time when power chords, wah-wah pedals, reverb and delay were the flavor of the day. When louder was better and the ballroom gigs gave way to sports arena concerts and eventually stadium shows. It was a time when rock ‘n’ roll guitarists reached superstar status.

But Leo Kottke forged his place in American music history and his finger-style acoustic style took him all the way to the Guitar Player Hall of Fame in 1978 and later earned him a couple of Grammy nominations in 1988 and 1991. Kottke, through sheer durability and genius, single-handedly inspired generations to take up the steel-string acoustic guitar.

Some 50 years after his debut album, “12 String Blues,” most of which was recorded live at the Minneapolis coffee house Ten O’Clock Scholar, an old haunt of Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel, he’s still at it.

“If you don’t need to play, this is a terrible job. It will wear you down and you’ll find something else to do. But the guitar saved my life when I was about 12 years old and it’s owned me ever since,” Kottke said. “It’s a privilege to play. And the more I do it, the more I want to do it.

“When I write a tune I’m just getting a glimpse of a larger world. It’s a sense of place. The job could end, but the guitar won’t.”

Kottke will treat Central Washington to the finger-style music that influenced not only the guitar world, but the world in general, in his Ellensburg debut Sept. 27 at Wayne S. Hertz Concert Hall on the campus of Central Washington University.

“I have to admit, I was influenced by that interaction between Duane Allman and Dickie Betts in the Allman Brothers Band. But Leo Kottke is such an icon. I hope people really appreciate what one guy can do with a guitar,” said internationally acclaimed Billy McLaughlin, who will be playing at the Morgan Performing Arts Center Sept. 28. “He’s not 35 anymore, neither is Jeff Beck or Jimmy Page. We have to see these legends before they go. Even if you don’t know who he is, you should take the opportunity to see a legend while he’s still with us.”

Kottke quietly became known as an innovator, a pioneer and an inspiration to guitarists, folk purists and Americana aficionados, recording 22 studio records and 14 compilations, live albums and soundtracks throughout his career. His second recording “6- and 12-String Guitar” is still his best-known album. “Rolling Stone Magazine” put it all in perspective back in a 1970 with a review by Carl Bauer.

“With all the (stuff) that has been released recently, it was a distinct pleasure to come across this album. Kottke isn’t a new addition to the Page-Beck school of grating, hypertensive guitarists, as if you were expecting that,” said Bauer’s review of “6- and 12-String Guitar.”

“He’s an acoustic guitarist from Minneapolis whose music can invoke your most subliminal reflections or transmit you to the highest reaches of joy ... anything in addition to his guitar would be superfluous.”

Kottke’s delivery may look like tsunami winds when his hands fly up and down the frets, but he’s able to mimic a full band, with a rhythm section, through a simple acoustic 6 or 12-string guitar without so much as a looping pedal helping him. What separates him from other finger-style guitarists is a long-form, right-hand pattern where he frequently plays eight measures before repeating any right-hand idea.

“I took typing lessons the year I got a guitar,” Kottke said. “I truly think that’s why I play the way I do. Finger independence ... that, and never being interested in horn lines.

“These days I love horn lines, but I’m from the baroque, probably some kind of German throwback that wants to piano-ize the guitar. I was stammering at John McLaughlin one day when I was opening for his band on a long tour, trying to tell him how much I loved what he did, and he stopped me and said, ‘I like your right hand as much as you like my right hand.’ Imagine that.”

He has always marched to the beat of his own drummer and his Ellensburg audience will have the opportunity to take it all in with an evening with acoustic guitar legend Leo Kottke, live at the Wayne Hertz Concert Hall.


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