Despite having lost a good bit of his hearing in both ears and suffering from intense tendon damage, Leo Kottke has managed to become a master of the guitar, achieving a solid reputation as a virtuosic fingerpicker. Born in Athens, Georgia but living in 12 states as a child, Kottke was exposed to a diverse range of music which is evident in his own compositions. Upon his eventual move to Minneapolis, he began playing in coffee shops, garnering a reputation and getting signed to a small folk-based label.
His first LP Twelve String Blues was recorded live at a coffee house in Minneapolis in 1969. He subsequently signed with the major label, Capitol, and performed his own singer/songwriter material, which generated Mudlark, an album he was never fully comfortable with. Over the next decade, he explored a number of genres, including folk, rock, jazz, and bluegrass while remaining faithful to his finger-picking personae. It was the mid-'80s when he first began to develop the painful tendonitis which slowed down his music productivity and led him to more classical styles. Since then, Kottke has remained active and influential, touring and recording extensively, even branching out to younger, wider fan bases after his work with Phish bassist Mike Gordon in the 2000s.