David Kottke is an American acoustic guitarist renowned for his instrumental music. With 20 albums released to date and being considered one of the most influential artists in steel-string fingerstyle history, Kottke is considered an iconic musician.
Discharged from the Navy in 1964, he quickly settled in Minneapolis’ Scholar Coffeehouse where he quickly established himself. For its tiny Oblivion label he made his 1968 recording debut album “Twelve Strong Blues”.
Early Life and Education
Born and raised in Athens, Georgia, Kottke quickly found inspiration in different musical forms – initially being drawn towards Stravinsky at age one-and-a-half; however it would later be guitar that would ultimately propel his success.
As a youngster, he experimented with both violin and trombone before ultimately choosing guitar as his instrument of choice. Later as a teen he found inspiration listening to musicians such as country-blues guitarist Mississippi John Hurt, march-master John Phillip Sousa, as well as percussion wizard Preston Epps.
After serving in the Navy, he joined Apple early on as one of its early employees as a technician in its garage where Steve Jobs would test circuit boards. He quickly became close with Jobs, while being one of its predecessors NeXT’s initial employees.
David Kottke is one of the world’s longest-standing and most prolific touring artists, known for his signature steel-string fingerpicking guitar instrumentals that have become a genre in themselves. Over four decades, Kottke’s career has had a profound influence on music and culture alike.
Kottke began playing violin and trombone before switching to guitar, eventually serving in the Navy where he sustained partial hearing damage from firing a firecracker near his ear.
In 2002, Kottke began an immensely popular collaboration with Phish bassist Mike Gordon that resulted in their critically-acclaimed album and subsequent tour “Clone”. Their popularity among younger listeners earned them great appreciation from those in both groups.
Achievement and Honors
Born in Athens, Georgia and raised across twelve different states, he took in musical influences ranging from Stravinsky to country blues Mississippi John Hurt. After studying trombone and violin initially, he eventually picked up guitar as well.
He also created an unconventional picking style called hybrid-picking that utilized his fingertips rather than fingerpicks for picking.
At Minneapolis’ Scholar Coffeehouse, Kottke recorded his debut LP Twelve String Blues using a Viking quarter-inch tape recorder. Subsequently, John Fahey signed Kottke to his Takoma label and released what is commonly referred to as the Armadillo record. Fahey and manager Denny Bruce then secured him a recording contract with Capitol Records; during his tenure with them he made notable strides such as 1972’s Greenhouse record as well as 1973 live albums “My Feet Are Smiling” and “Ice Water,” as well as 1975 solo effort Chewing Pine which reached US Top 30 status and gained international respectability.
Kottke moved around a lot as he was growing up, taking in musical influences from multiple states. Starting off playing violin when he was one, then switching over to trombone as he aged.
Later in his illness journeys, he developed an interest in playing the acoustic guitar. His parents gave him a toy guitar as therapy during one particularly severe incident and it ultimately saved his life.
After graduating high school, he hitchhiked across the United States to make money and began recording his debut album for Oblivion Records in Minneapolis in 1968.
After briefly recording on Chrysalis’ label, Kottke switched to Capitol Records in 1971 and released albums such as My Feet Are Smiling and Ice Water, touring both domestically and overseas while amassing an avid following worldwide.
Kottke and Jobs were close as Reed students, and later collaborated in building Apple together. Together they would travel to India in search of spiritual enlightenment.
They shared a house together. He was one of Apple’s early part-time employees and member of its Board.
Former girlfriend of Steve Jobs, Laurene Powell Jobs, recently published a book detailing their relationship. It paints an entirely different picture than what Jobs claimed he told his chosen biographer about them.
But now, on the eve of publication, Daniel Kottke has shared his own interpretation. He tells MailOnline that Brennan’s book is completely “out of character” for someone so private as herself.