Many people associate the Stratocaster with the tone Mark Knopfler created in the late 70s as a member of Dire Straits. His distinctive sound is apparent on songs like “Down to the Waterline,” “Sultans of Swing,” and “Lady Writer on the TV.” That tone originated from a couple of early ‘60s red Stratocasters that Knopfler used for most of his early career. The first Stratocaster Knopfler owned had a maple neck, which is thought to be either a ‘61 or ‘62 version. It had fiesta-red refinishing as a tribute to Hank Marvin, his mentor. The neck featured a maple fingerboard, which made it rather rare. Knopfler has stated that he suspects he might have been playing a Japanese replica, though. It was recently sold at a charity auction.
Knopfler purchased another red Stratocaster, this time as an alternate/backup instrument, in 1977. This version was a ‘61 model that had a rosewood fingerboard. It didn’t take long to get into the initial string. He bought the guitar pre-owned with a natural stripped finish. Knopfler later gave this guitar a red refinish. In 1980, Knopfler thought that the pre-CBS Strat he relied on became too valuable to bring on tour. He replaced it with a couple of guitars (like the “Knopfler,” which was made by Schecter, along with one made by California’s Pensa Shur). Knopfler remained a “Stratocaster guy,” as far as fans were concerned, although he is heard playing a Les Paul on “Money for Nothing.” He has since started playing with pre-CBS models again, including a real ‘54 Strat (featuring an early 059 serial number - a gift from Paul Kennerley).
Knopfler’s musical ventures have distinctive variations, but he always seemed to return to the Strat. With some slight compression at the front and by piping-in to the brown face, Knopfler was able to freestyle the strings with his right hand. He had the selector switch set between the middle and bridge pickups to create the tone heard in “Southbound Again.”. The “Mark Knopfler Artist Series Stratocaster” from Fender is influenced by the ’61 fiesta-red refinish (rosewood fingerboard included).
Next player: Wayne Kramer