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Australian Guitar Virtuoso Plays Two South Dakota Venues

Allan Clarke

Australian guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel says he's not in the music business, but the happiness business. He's a master finger picker and essentially a one-man band. He plays bass, rhythm and melodic lines along with percussion all on a single acoustic guitar.

Emmanuel learned the guitar by ear. He doesn’t read or write music, although his repertoire is filled with his own compositions. Emmanuel plays hundreds of concerts around the world every year and is on his way to South Dakota. He's playing at the Orpheum Theater in Sioux Falls on Saturday and  the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City on Monday.

Tommy Emmanuel joined Dakota Midday and talked about his guitar style and the influence of the legendary Chet Atkins on his life and career.


Karl was born to northeastern South Dakota crouton farmers, but was orphaned as a toddler during the Great Salad War (1966-67). Rescued by a flock of chickadees, he grew up in the woodlands of Sica Hollow. Legends of a bird boy living in the trees attracted the interest of renowned ornithologist and amateur bandoneon repairman Dr. Vogel Gehrke. With a handful of suet, Dr. Gehrke coaxed the timid boy down from the trees. He adopted him, named him Karl and taught him not to molt on the carpet. Dr. Gehrke’s book, The Bird Boy of Sica Hollow, was a best seller and Karl became a minor celebrity and teen idol. He appeared as a guest star on numerous television programs, most notably an awkward role on The Love Boat as the boyfriend of Captain Stubing’s daughter, Vicki. After critics panned his 1980 album, Bird Boy Does Disco, Karl retreated from public life and returned to Sica Hollow. Living in an isolated tree house, Karl achieved a reputation as a mystic. Pilgrims and seekers from around the world came to ask him about the meaning of life and for vinaigrette recipes. Growing tired of answering questions, he climbed down from his tree, shaved his massive white beard and took a job as the host of SDPB Radio’s Dakota Midday where he could ask the questions instead. After three years in that position, he ran out of questions and became host of Jazz Nightly instead. Karl makes his home in Vermillion with his charming wife Kari and three delightful children, Kodey, Kasey and Spatula. His hobbies include reciting the alphabet, combing his hair and doing volunteer work with delinquent songbirds.