March 26, 2019

Leo Kottke: How the guitar saved my life


Leo Kottke is a quirky and genuine as you’d guess from his music – here’s an excerpt from our interview which ends with him talking about music being a type of home for him:

Renowned acoustic guitarist Leo Kottke says the guitar didn’t just give him a career — it saved his life.

“It was a bad time. I was 11 years old. My sister had died after a life-long illness, and I just nosedived,” he said. “I had no interest in anything. I kept getting sicker. They (doctors) were worried about my heart. I was supposed to lie on my back and not sit up.”

His mother gave him a toy guitar, Kottke said, because it was an instrument he could play in bed.

“I made up an E chord and I strummed it and I sat up like Dracula coming out of his box. I was alive! I’d been on my back for two months and I was out of bed in a week.”

From then on, Kottke was hooked. “I knew all I wanted was the guitar. Everything came to me all at once and it expanded inside me in a rush,” he said. “Everything woke up.”

That epiphany led Kottke to experiment with the guitar. He finger-picked with open tunings on both six- and twelve-string guitars to create quirky, original sounds and became revered by musicians and fans alike for his masterful compositions.

Though he didn’t plan on making his living as a musician, “it just sort of happened,” he said. “I had to make it work because of the usual stuff: you go broke, you knock up your wife, your guitars get stolen . . .

For the full story, which appeared in the Press Democrat in Feb. 2012, click here.

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