Ex-Scorpions Drummer James Kottak Dead at 61
"James was a wonderful human being, a great musician and loving family man," the Scorpions wrote on social media. "He was our 'brother from another mother' and will be truly missed."
The Louisville-born musician played in myriad hard rock bands throughout his career, including Buster Brown, Montrose, McAuley Schenker Group, Dio and Warrant. He achieved his first considerable success with Kingdom Come, whose self-titled 1988 debut peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 and went gold (while also earning plenty of Led Zeppelin comparisons) off the strength of the single "Get It On."
Kottak joined Scorpions in 1996 and remained with the group until 2016, making him their longest-tenured drummer, just ahead of Herman Rarebell (1977-1996). He performed on the studio albums Eye II Eye, Unbreakable, Humanity: Hour I, Sting in the Tail and Return to Forever before being dismissed and replaced by Motorhead's Mikkey Dee.
James Kottak's Long Struggle With Alcohol
Kottak grappled with alcoholism for years, leading to his 2014 arrest and imprisonment in Dubai and his eventual dismissal from Scorpions. He sought treatment at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Centre Antigua and said he remained on good terms with his bandmates, even as they moved on with new personnel.
"Mikkey came into the band and it was going to be temporary," Kottak said in 2018. "And it wasn't until we got down to business in October or November of 2016, which was a long time later, that they just decided to say, 'Hey, man, we wanna talk to you. It's not like you're being fired. We wanna move on. We wanna part ways.' It didn't feel like being fired. ... They're great guys like that. I'm so grateful to them. Put it this way: 21 years is a lifetime."
Kottak also turned heads when he took part in a highly criticized Kingdom Come performance at the 2022 Sweden Rock Festival. Black Star Riders and former Ratt bassist Robbie Crane commented at the time: "This is a sad situation … James is a good dude … He's a father, brother, son, husband and friend … But sadly, you are correct … the only person that can save James is James. He has to want it."
In Memoriam: 2023 Deaths
Gallery Credit: Allison Rapp