Mark Freuder Knopfler was born on 12 August 1949 in Glasgow, Scotland to an English mother and Hungarian Jewish father. Mark’s first guitar was a £50 twin-pick-up Höfner Super Solid.During the 1960s, he formed and joined schoolboy bands and listened to singers like Elvis Presley and guitarists Chet Atkins, Scotty Moore, B.B King, Django Reinhardt, Hank Marvin, and James Burton.
He formed Dire Straits in 1977 together with his brothers David Knopfler, and friends John Illsley, and Pick Withers. In 1977, Dire Straits recorded a five-song demo tape which included their future hit single, “Sultans of Swing”, as well as “Water of Love”, “Down to the Waterline”, “Wild West End” and David Knopfler’s “Sacred Loving”.
As a member of Dire Straits, and as a solo artist, Mark sold over 120 million records worldwide, and has won 4 Grammy Awards. He is ranked 27th on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Mark Knopfler’s Electric Guitars:
1962 Hofner Super Solid V2
|Mark’s father bought this guitar for him in 1964 for 50£ when Mark was just 15 years old. It was his first guitar, and at that time he couldn’t afford an amplifier so he played it through a family radio instead.|
Mark’s Hofner was made in 1962, and it features red finish, celluloid strip fretboard inlays, and two type 510 “Diamond Logo” pickups. Even though it’s been more than 50 years since Mark got this guitar, he still owns it and takes a special care of it.
1959 Gibson Les Paul Special Doublecut
|This is one of Mark’s earliest guitars, predating his red 1961 Stratocaster. It can be seen a photo presented during a documentary dubbed Guitar Stories, where Mark talks about six guitar that helped him define his sound.|
The guitar featured double-cutaway mahogany body finished in cherry red, and two P-90 pickups.
1961 Fender Stratocaster
|This Stratocaster was bought sometime prior to Dire Straits first album released in 1978. It was Mark’s first Fender Stratocaster, most likely used on the demo tape of “Sultans of Swing” and quite possibly on the album version as well.|
When Mark bought the guitar the original paint was stripped down, so Mark had it repainted in red to replicate his dream guitar – Hank Marvin’s red Strat.
Mark used this guitar on the recording of the album, and as a spare for his maple necked Strat. Towards 1979 he started using this guitar more than the maple Strat, but in mid 80s he decided it was better to keep the guitar safe at his house for obvious sentimental reasons.
1962 Fender Stratocaster
|This was Mark’s second Fender Stratocaster, acquired sometime in mid to late 70s. It is believed that the guitar itself was made sometime in the early 60s, and that it was actually a Japanese copy featuring maple neck which wasn’t typical for that time period on American Stratocasters.|
This guitar has been a subject of many theorycrafting and people trying to figure out it’s origins. Ingo Raven at mk-guitar.com is probably most on point. He think that although some of the parts on the guitar might be Japanese, that’s not necessarily the case for the guitar as a whole. He notes that some parts seem to have been changed and gathered from different sources, hinting at a possible Part-caster. (Read the full story on mk-guitar.com)
Mark’s maple Strat was taken apart in 1982 by John Suhr, who then noticed all these irregularities and replaced the original neck with a Schecter one-piece maple neck. Soon after that, perhaps because finding out that his Strat wasn’t genuine, Mark stopped playing it altogether and moved onto Schecters and other guitars.
This guitar was allegedly sold at an auction for charity cause, although we haven’t been able to find an official listing for it.
1969 Fender Telecaster Thinline
|This guitar actually belonged to David Knopfler, but Mark used it himself as a slide guitar for “Water of Love” in the early days.|
The guitar was originally a Telecaster Thinline with body cavities, later modified by Mark’s friend Steve Phillips who filled in the f-holes and painted the whole thing black. It had two standard Telecaster single-coil pickups and a mahogany body.
1960s Gibson SG Custom
|Played during the “Love Over Gold” tour in 1982/83, and on the studio recording of the song “Two Young Lovers”. It is also possible that he used the guitar on some other songs from the ExtendedancEPlay EP.|
The model appears to be from early 60s, featuring white body finish, black “bat-wing” pickguard, and three pickups.
1980 Schecter Stratocaster Red
|This guitar was purchased sometime in early 80s at Rudy Music Stop in New York among couple of other more Schecters. At the time Mark was looking for a guitar to replace his ’62 Stratocaster, and apparently he was impressed with a Schecter guitar that his girlfriend owned at the time.|
Mark’s red Schecter was originally equipped with three black Schecter F500T pickups, but it seems that after few months Mark had them replaced with Seymour Duncans with white plastic covers. There’s of course a possibility that he owned two different red Schecter at that time, one of which had the original black pickups – but that’s just pure speculation.
This guitar was used from 1980 to around 1987 when Mark switched to Pensa-Suhr guitars, although he did pick it up occasionally in the 90s. It was seen at couple of most memorable Dire Straits concert, including Alchemy Live in 1983 and Live Aid in 1985.
1980 Schecter Stratocaster Sunburst
|This was Mark’s second most used Schecter during the 80s. There were actually two nearly identical sunburst Schecters, one of which was stolen in the early 80s, and the other one becoming its replacement.|
Both guitars were finished in sunburst, and featured brass pickguard, one-piece maple neck, and three Schecter F500T pickups. The first Schecter which was stolen had dot inlays on the neck, and the jack socket was on the front of the body, while the second one had no inlays and the jack plate was on the side.
Mark used the first Schecter on Making Movies album in 1980 after which it was stolen, and he used the second one up until around 1986 next to his red Schecter main just for the song “Tunnel of Love”. He ended up selling that guitar at an auction in 2004 and donated all the profits to Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Centre in Antigua.
1984 Schecter Telecaster
|Mark bought this guitar in the 80s and first used it on the soundtrack album “Cal” released in 1984. After that he used it in the “Walk of Life” video, and kept using it from the point on while playing that same song live.|
Mark’s Schecter Telecaster features red finish with white plastic binding over the top edge of the body. The pickup in it are Schecter F500Ts, and the neck has no visible inlays.
He still owns this guitar and plays it live occasionally.
1983 Gibson Les Paul Standard
|Mark used an 80s Les Paul Standard on the recording of Brothers in Arms album in 1985, which he bought from Rudy Pensa circa 1984.|
There’s some confusion surrounding this guitar, about whether it’s a 70s or 80s Les Paul. Apparently the serial number of the guitar is #90006, which would place the guitar among the first batch of ’59 Les Paul Flametop reissues made in 1983. So Mark was likely misquoted or made a lapsus in saying he bought the guitar in the 70s, since most clues point towards 80s.
Be that as it may, Mark’s BiA Les Paul was made during the Norlin era – which is often characterized by decreasing product quality. It featured one piece mahogany body with two-piece flamed maple top in cherry sunburst, nickel hardware, and most likely two Gibson “Shaw” humbuckers. The switch was allegedly modified so that the middle would connect the pickups out of phase.
1985 Schecter Stratocaster
|Mark acquired this guitar sometime in 1985. It was put together by John Suhr who at the time worked at Rudy’s Music Stop in New York City doing mostly just guitar repairs.|
The guitar featured white finish on Schecter-made Stratocaster-style body, and a Schecter neck – shaped and styled after an original 1961 Fender Stratocaster neck. Suhr used Dunlop 6110 frets, but shaped the fretboard for a 10 inch radius when compared to a 7.25 on the original 61 Strat.
He fitted the guitar with a tortoise shell pickguard, and installed three Seymour Duncan Alnico pickups, and used an original Fender vintage-style tremolo bridge. The headstock was also decorated with a Fender decal, which confused many people into thinking that this was an original Fender.
Mark used this guitar occasionally during the BiA tour in 1985/86, and kept using it during the On Every Street tour in the 90s. It was also seen couple of times on his more recent solo tours.
1984/85 Steinberger GL2 Standard
|Mark played this guitar occasionally on the song “Money For Nothing” during the later part of Brothers in Arms tour in 1986.|
Mark’s GL2 is finished in black, and features one piece composite body/neck, EMG 60 humbucker in the bridge and EMG 81 in the neck. It is also equipped with a TransTrem vibrato system, which was a pretty big deal back in the day, and allowed entire chords to have their pitch bent without causing the strings to go out of tune with each other.
1988 Pensa-Suhr Custom
|In 1987 Mark met with Rudy Pensa at a small coffee shop called “Prince’s” in New York. The two discussed about a possible project – a guitar which would be a sort of a crossover between a Stratocaster and a Les Paul. They agreed on the details, and drew a first sketch of this guitar on a napkin they found on the table.|
The guitar was finished sometime in early 1988, and it was completely built by John Suhr who worked at Pensa music shop at the time. This particular model was supposedly something that John worked out prior to Rudy and Mark ever meeting, and the guitar was only modified to fit Mark’s needs and wishes following the input Rudy took from Mark during the infamous meeting at a coffee shop.
John used mahogany as a basis for the body, one-piece carved maple as a top, and brazilian rosewood as a fretboard material. The guitar was equipped with EMG 81 in the bridge, and EMG SA in the middle and neck position – all mounted from the back. This was all controlled with two knobs – a regular volume knob, and a EMG SPC push/pull knob which added the gain boost. Tuners on it were Sperzels, and a Floyd Rose locking tremolo was installed – although Mark didn’t use it that much.
This guitar is perhaps best known for its appearance on Nelson Mandela 70th birthday concert played in June 1988. Fun trivia about this gig is that Dire Straits were allowed to play under one condition – the band needed to rehearse for the event because they haven’t been on tour for some time and had even disbanded temporarily. So the first time Mark ever picked up this guitar was at the rehearsal event at Hammersmith Odeon on June 8th 1988.
This guitar was one of Mark’s main in the late 80s and early 90s – used extensively during the On Every Street tour. Since then Mark grew accustomed to fatter necks of his Gibson Les Pauls, and eventually stopped using this guitar altogether.
1987 Pensa-Suhr Prototype
|This guitar actually came before previously mentioned Pensa-Suhr, as Mark was seen using it during the studio session of “Let it be” with Ferry Aid ensemble group, brought together in 1987.|
The guitar does share a lot of similarities with the orange guitar, so it is highly possible that this model was used as a building ground. Main difference between the two, beside the obvious one like the color, is the fact that his guitar features flat top and front-mounted humbucker. It also has only one knob, so that means that the EMG SPC gain boost wasn’t featured on the black Pensa-Suhr.
Mark used this guitar first as a guest guitarist on Eric Clapton’s 1987 tour, and later on Vic and Ray 1996, and 1999 tour with Notting Hillbillies.
1953 Gibson Custom Super 400 CES
|Mark used this guitar on Fade to Black and On Every Street from the 1991 album, and occasionally live on Your Latest Trick.|
The guitar features blonde finish, archtop design, and two Alnico V pickups. Mark’s guitar was built sometime in 1953 and featured slightly thicker top when compared to the earlier models to reduce feedback.
First Super 400 was built in 1934 and it was named after it’s price, $400 (around $7,000 in today’s value). It was hugely popularized by Scotty Moore, who played a 1963 model in Elvis Presley’s stage performance, the ’68 Comeback Special.
1990s Pensa MK2 Custom
|Mark recieved this guitar sometime prior to the recording of Golden Heart album in 1996. It was a sort of a blue-print and a prototype model for the MK-2 signature line, but another different guitar followed after this one in late 90s, and was a more finished version of the final product.|
This guitar was made by Rudy Pensa (John Suhr parted ways with Pensa in 1991, so he was not involved in making this guitar), and featured mahogany back with flamed koa top finished in dark shade of orange, and three single-coil pickups – allegedly custom-made by Lindy Fralin. Mark used the guitar during the Golden Heart tour in 1996 on Father and Son and Golden Heart.
The guitar that we mentioned in the first paragraph that came after this one and featured almost identical design (therefore we included it here), was finished in 1996. Although it did looks almost identical to the first model, it did feature a maple top when compared to koa on the first one, three Seymour Duncan Antiquity single-coil pickups, and a thicker neck with bigger fretboard radius.
The second guitar was first used during the Sailing to Philadelphia tour in 2001, and Mark still occasionally picks it up during live performances, but beware that this is not the same Pensa with white body binding he uses more often nowadays .
1954 Fender Stratocaster
|Mark got this guitar from Paul Kennerly ( English singer-songwriter, producer) sometime in mid 90s. It is supposedly the 59th Stratocaster ever made.|
It was used on “I’m The Fool” from the 1996 album “Golden Heart”, “The Fish and the Bird” from Kill To Get Crimson, and ”I Used to Could” from Privateering.
Mark usually keeps heavier strings on it – probably D’Addario .012s, and he most often uses an actual pick when he plays this particular guitar.
1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard
|Purchased sometime in the mid 90s. This is the first vintage Les Paul that Mark ever bought, and it quickly replaced his 80s reissue that was used on Brothers in Arms album.|
Mark’s Les Paul features almost completely faded cherry red sunburst finish on a lightly figured maple top, and it was made during time period which is mostly considered to the the golden era of Gibson. It was presumably one of the earliest models to feature sunburst finish – a design change from the usual gold-top finish introduced in July 1958.
Almost everything on Mark’s guitar is kept stock, except for the tuners which were recently replaced with Klusons because the old ones started losing their structural integrity.
Mark uses this guitar extensively live, even more so than his other 1959 Les Paul (often considered the most desirable Les Paul model). He used it first on the tour for his solo album Golden Heart released in 1996.
1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard
|This is Mark’s second vintage Les Paul. Although considered by many to be the more desirable of the two, Mark actually uses his ’58 Les Paul more often than this one. It’s not clear when exactly he bought this guitar, but presumably it was around the same time as his other Les Paul – so mid to late 90s.|
The guitar features a lot less faded finish when compared to his 58 Les Paul, so the two can easily be easily distinguished if you know where to look.
Basically, all of the late 50s Les Pauls originally featured similar cherry red sunburst finish, but due to the use of ultra-violet sensitive dye on some of them, lots of those guitars lost their original red accents mostly due to exposure to the sun. Mark’s ’59 Les Paul got to keep most of that original red finish, while his ’58 is almost completely free from it – except for that small patch of red around the toggle switch.
1954 Fender Telecaster
|This guitar is allegedly one of the Mark’s favorites. He started using it in the early 90s with Notting Hillbillies, and still plays it occasionally it nowadays.|
Mark’s Telecaster features one piece maple neck, ash body with Butterscotch Blonde finish, and two original Fender single-coil pickups.
1959 Gibson ES-335TDN
|This guitar was featured on the booklet of the 2000 album “Sailing to Philadelphia“. It was also seen seen on some photos taken at Mark’s studio, but coupled with another almost identical ES-335 – presumably also from the late 50s.|
Mark’s Gibson ES-335 is finished in blonde, and features ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic bridge and two Gibson PAF pickups.
Mark used it on “Baloney Again” from the 2000 album “Sailing to Philadelphia”, and possibly on some stuff on the 2007 album “Kill to Get Crimson”.
1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins Hollowbody
|Mark used this guitar few times on “Red Staggerwing” live.|
Fender Stratocaster Mark Knopfler Signature
|This guitar model was introduced in 2003, and since then Mark has been using it occasionally on tours.|
The model was built to Mark’s specs, and it features ash body, Indian rosewood fingerboard, C profile neck with 7.25″ radius, and three Custom Shop Texas Special single-coil pickups.
Mark Knopfler Signature model was discontinued in 2013.
1963 Danelectro DC-1
|Used on “Miss You Blue” and “Corned Beef City” on the 2012 album “Privateering“, and on “Donegan’s Gone” from the 2004 album “Shangri-La”.|
The guitar is finished in black, and features one single-coil “lipstick” pickup.
1960s Danelectro Amp-in-case/Silvertone 1452
|Mark used this guitar extensively on the 2004 album “Shangri-La”, both in studio and on the live tour. It can be heard on songs such as “Boom Like That”, “Stand Up Guy”, and “Don’t Crash the Ambulance”.|
The guitar features red sunburst finish, two single coil pickups, and a tremolo bridge. This model was made by Danelectro and sold under Silvertone brand. The initial concept was to sell the guitar bundled with a case that has an amp built into it – therefore offering all-in-one solution. It was produced from from 1962 to 1968, and it was recently re-introduced in 2008 in modified form as the “Dano ’63”.
2011 Pensa MKD
|This is one of Mark’s most recent guitars. It features light blue finish, Hipshot tremolo and tuners, and two Lindy Fralin Soapbar single-coil pickups.|
Mark Knopfler’s Acoustic Guitars:
|Mark bought this guitar sometime in late 60s or early 70s at Exchange and Mart in Wales. He didn’t have a car to drive there, nor the money to actually afford the guitar, but he borrowed both and drove all the way to Wales to buy it.|
He played this guitar Steve Phillips in The Duolian String Pickers band, before buying Steve’s Duolian.
1937 National Duolian Resonator
|Mark bought this guitar in 1978 from Steve Phillips, with whom he met in 1969 working as a journalist for The Yorkshire Evening Post. Eventually the two became close and started playing together in local pubs under a stage name “The Duolian String Pickers”.|
Mark retrofitted this guitar with L.R. Baggs transducer, and used it on Telegraph Road from the 1982 album “Love over Gold”, and Romeo and Juliet from the 1980 album “Making Movies”.
Gibson Chet Atkins CE
|Played live during Love over Gold tour on Private Investigations, and on Love over Gold.|
1935 Martin D18
|This is one of Mark’s favorite acoustic guitars, at least according to an interview he gave to VintageGuitar.com. The guitar was a present from Paul Kennerly.|
1938 Gibson Advanced Jumbo
|Mark used this guitar on “Speedway at Nazareth” and “Wanderlust” from the 2000 album Sailing to Philadelphia, and on “Before Gas and TV” and “Remembrance Day” from the 2009 album Get Lucky.|
Mark’s guitar is one of only 300 hundred Advanced Jumbos ever made, before they were replaced with now better known Gibson J-200 Super Jumbo. The guitar features sitka spruce top, and Brazilian rosewood back and sides.
1953 Gibson Southern Jumbo
|Mark would usually play this one for strumming using a pick, while he mostly fingerpicks on the previously mentioned Gibson Jumbo.|
|This is the first Mark Knopfler signature Martin, made for a short period of time in 2002. A total of around 250 guitars were made.|
Mark used this guitar for the recording of The Ragpicker’s Dream in 2002.
|Second Mark Knopfler signature line from Martin – the 000-40S. Only 150 of these guitar were made in the original run.|
2008 Monteleone Custom
|This Monteleone was made for Mark by John Monteleone, guitar builder from New York. Mark used it for recording “Monteleone” on the “Get Lucky” album. He often referred this guitar as one of the most beautiful guitars he ever held in his hands.|
The guitar is named after Mark’s eldest daughter Isabella.
Mark Knopfler’s Guitar Amps:
– Selmer Thunderbird
Used in the early days, pre Dire Straits.
– Fender Vibrolux
A brown-tolex Vibrolux made in the mid 60s, used since the first album for clean tone. It can be heard way back on Dire Straits debut album (most notably on “Sultans of Swing”), and on Mark’s latest solo Privateering.
– Fender Twin Reverb
Mainly seen on live gigs following the release of the band’s first album, although the amp was used during the studio sessions as well.
– Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus
Used only on the first album.
– Music Man HD130
Present during Making Movies era, both in studio and on stage.
– Mesa Boogie Mark II
Used for the Love Over Gold album, and most of the stuff on Brother in Arms.
– Marshall JTM45
Used on “Brothers in Arms” and “Money For Nothing”.
– Jim Kelley FACS heads
Used for the entirety of the Brothers in Arms tour, by both Mark and Jack Sonni. According to John Suhr who at the time worked at Rudy’s Music Stop in New York, and who also introduced Mark to Jim Kelley amps, the amp was also used on the intro for “Money for Nothing” (Thanks to Jim Kelley for providing the info).
– Soldano SLO 100
Basically Mark’s main go-to amp since the mid 90s.
– Crate VC5212
Used for a brief period of time live during the Golden Heart tour.
– Komet 60
Used in the mid ’00s.
– Fender Bassman ’59
Used in the recent days,next to his old Vibrolux and Soldano.
Mark used Talyn and Storm 33 models on the 2012 album Privateering, although they were used some time prior to the album as well.
Mark Knopfler’s Guitar Effects:
Mark is one of those guitarists who keep most of their effects in the rack during a live setting, meaning — he mostly lets his guitar tech take care of them. In the studio, most of the effects are added in the process of mixing and editing the tapes.
That aside, here’s couple of pedals which had significant impact on building Mark’s signature sound over the years:
– Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer
Mark allegedly used this compressor on the first album for “Sultans of Swing”, although the compression might’ve been added after in the process of mixing. If you’re looking for a similar sound through a pedal, Henretta Orange Whip Compressor would be a good start.
– Morley Volume Pedal
He used this volume pedal in the early days, but now he’s using the Ernie Ball Volume Pedal. It is usually the only pedal he’d actually have with him on stage. Example can be heard all over “Brothers in Arms” fillers when played live.
– MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay
Mark uses a bit of delay in his usual setting. In the early days he went with the MXR Analog Delay, but nowadays he seems to be using TC Electronic 2290 rack delay.
– Dunlop Cry Baby
Mark used it on Money for Nothing, having it in a fixed position.
– Crowther Audio Hotcake
Very basic old-school fuzz seen on some of the more recent tours (post 2000).
Mark Knopfler’s Guitar Strings:
– D’Addario EXL 120 9-42 – used on most of his electric guitars.
– Dean Markley Custom Light 12-53 – used on his acoustics.
– D’Addario EJ15/3D 10-47 – used on the National.