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After adding a love for the country-blues of Mississippi John Hurt to the music of John Phillip Sousa and Preston Epps, Kottke joined the Navy underage, to be underwater, and eventually lost some hearing shooting at lightbulbs in the Atlantic while serving on the USS Halfbeak, a diesel submarine.
Kottke had previously entered college at the U of Missouri, dropping out after a year to hitchhike across the country to South Carolina, then to New London and into the Navy, with his twelve string. “The trip was not something I enjoyed,” he has said, “I was broke and met too many interesting people.”
Discharged in 1964, he settled in the Twin Cities area and became a fixture at Minneapolis’ Scholar Coffeehouse, which had been home to Bob Dylan and John Koerner. He issued his 1968 recording debut LP Twelve String Blues, recorded on a Viking quarter-inch tape recorder, for the Scholar’s tiny Oblivion label. (The label released one other LP by The Langston Hughes Memorial Eclectic Jazz Band.)
After sending tapes to guitarist John Fahey, Kottke was signed to Fahey’s Takoma label, releasing what has come to be called the Armadillo record. Fahey and his manager Denny Bruce soon secured a production deal for Kottke with Capitol Records.
Kottke’s 1971 major-label debut, “Mudlark,” positioned him somewhat uneasily in the singer/songwriter vein, despite his own wishes to remain an instrumental performer. Still, despite arguments with label heads as well as with Bruce, Kottke flourished during his tenure on Capitol, as records like 1972’s “Greenhouse” and 1973’s live “My Feet Are Smiling” and “Ice Water” found him branching out with guest musicians and honing his guitar technique.
With 1975’s Chewing Pine, Kottke reached the U.S. Top 30 for the second time; he also gained an international following thanks to his continuing tours in Europe and Australia.
His collaboration with Phish bassist Mike Gordon, “Clone,” caught audiences’ attention in 2002. Kottke and Gordon followed with a recording in the Bahamas called “Sixty Six Steps,” produced by Leo’s old friend and Prince producer David Z.
Kottke has been awarded two Grammy nominations; a Doctorate in Music Performance by the Peck School of Music at the U of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; and a Certificate of Significant Achievement in Not Playing the Trombone from the U of Texas at Brownsville with Texas Southmost College.
Shana Morrison’s musical style has been called pop with a side of blues and a side of rock. She has also been known to include other ingredients, like country, R&B, and jazz into the mix. Her material seems to be ever-changing and hard to pin down categorically. What always remains the same is Shana’s unique and wide-ranging voice.
Shana Morrison began performing with her group Caledonia in the San Francisco Bay area in 1996. Her debut CD, Caledonia, was released on her own label, Belfast Violet Records, in 1998 and picked up by the Monster Music label in 1999. Caledonia received favorable reviews from the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Examiner, as well as airplay on KPFA, KPIG, KPIX, KDVS, KHUM, and KFOG. Tours across the country soon followed.
Vanguard Records signed Shana in 2001, and 7 Wishes was released in 2002. This time, she received favorable reviews from newspapers and magazines across the country, as well as airplay on KMTT in Seattle; KINK in Portland, Oregon; KSGR in Austin, Texas; and KBCO in Denver.
Chronologically listed, some highlights of Shana’s career follow: Since 1996, Shana has participated in benefit concerts for Oakland’s American Legends Foundation. Paying tribute to and playing for artists such as Brownie McGee and Charles Brown, Shana has shared billing with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker, and Dr. John. She has also played for festival audiences on the main stage both at the Guinness Fleadh in New York in 1997, and in San Francisco in 1999. In 2000 Shana performed at the San Francisco Blues Festival, the Ottawa Blues Festival, and the Edmonton Folk Festival. Recently she has had the type of exposure she deserves, opening shows for Lyle Lovett, Joe Cocker, Michael MacDonald, John Hyatt, Keb ‘Mo, and Bob Weir.
Shana’s international exposure includes a live broadcast for the BBC’s Kelly Show and an appearance at the BRIT Awards in 1996, when her father was presented with a lifetime-achievement award. This has been broadcasted on A&E in America several times since. She also participated in a VH1 Father’s Day special and was featured in People in 1997, Rolling Stone in 1999, and in Interview, as well as on the Oxygen channel’s Pure Oxygen, and on The Howard Stern Show in 2002.
Since 2002, the band has been busy with tours across the United States, Germany, Italy, Ireland, and the UK, playing radio shows, clubs, theaters, and festivals, most notably playing the Warfield in San Francisco, the Viper Room in Los Angeles, the House of Blues in Cambridge, the Bottom Line in New York, Meinisfree Open Air in Germany, the Arezzo Wave Pop festival in Italy, the Borderline in London, the Cork Jazz Festival, the Galway Arts Festival, and The Late Late Show in Ireland.
2006 through 2008 saw Shana singing beside Van Morrison again during his U.S. and U.K. tour dates. Twelve years have passed since her beginnings singing duets with Mr. Morrison in his infamous Rhythm and Soul Review, which featured artists such as Jimmy Withersoon, Junior Wells, and John Lee Hooker. Since her first foray into recording on the Van Morrison releases A Night in San Francisco (1994) and Days Like This (1995), Shana Morrison has grown as a singer, a songwriter, and an artist. Her self-produced 2007 release, the R&B-flavored CD That’s Who I Am, is on Belfast Violet Records. Joyride, produced by Kim McLean, was released in April 2010, also on Belfast Violet Records. Both albums are available online at iTunes, Amazon, and CDBaby.