Mark Knopfler: “The Six Guitars That Defined My Career”—Including the "Sultans of Swing" Strat
April 21, 2017
PHOTO: Barbara Zanon | Getty Images
In this clip from Sky Arts’ Guitar Stories series, Mark Knopfler shares the stories of his six favorite six-stringed instruments.
The video, uploaded by Mark Knopfler Russia, is a treat for anyone who loves guitars, and especially for fans of the Dire Straits guitarist. Guitar Stories is hosted by John Illsley, the bassist—and Knopfler’s bandmate—in Dire Straits. Together, Knopfler and Illsley drive the length of England and travel to New York City as they trace the path of Knopfler’s music career and the guitars that shaped it.
The two start off in Newcastle, Knopfler’s childhood hometown. They head to a music store in the city’s Central Arcade, where Knopfler used to shop. There they present the first guitar on the list, which is also Knopfler’s very own first guitar: a 1962 Hofner Super Solid V2, a Strat replica purchased by his father for 50 pounds in 1964 when a Stratocaster proved too expensive.
“In those days, 50 quid was quite a lot of money on the guitar, when you consider the average weekly wage was probably 30 or 20 pounds,” Illsley says. “So it was a couple of week’s wages.”
“Just because it was nowhere near a Strat doesn’t alter the fact that you love it,” Knopfler says of the guitar. ”I remember not wanting to let go of it the day that i got it, so it’s possible that I slept with it.”
From there it’s off to Robin Hood’s Bay on the coast of North Yorkshire, to visit Steve Phillips, the blues guitarist who not only influenced Knopfler’s style but also sold him the 1937 National Style O resonator guitar that appeared on the cover of the Dire Straits album Brothers in Arms.
In this segment of the clip, Knopfler talks about his history with Phillips—the two played together as the Duolian String Pickers—as well as the National and the role that it played in the writing of “Romeo and Juliet,” from Dire Straits’ 1980 album, Making Movies. One of the best part of this segment—and, indeed, of them all—is watching Knopfler reconnect with the guitars as he plays them.
From there they head to London to trace the very start of Knopfler’s career with Dire Straits—and to present the next guitars on the list.
Take a look at the video to see all the guitars—along with a visit to Rudy’s Music in New York City and the Long Island shop of famed luthier John Monteleone—and get the full story.