Skip to content
Home » Guitar Sultan Mark Knopfler

Guitar Sultan Mark Knopfler

Mark Knophler

Today’s Featured Guitarist is the Guitar Sultan Mark Knopfler this was written by our new author Nick and he will be having an interview with us as he also plays the telecaster so subscribe if you would like to see more articles like this one.

Cover Photo by Aherrero

“I hold a guitar like a plumber holds a hammer”, said Mark Knopfler in a 2019 interview with CBS Sunday Morning’s Anthony Mason. In 1978 Knopfler was on the road having inked a record deal via Phonogram Records with his band, Dire Straits, in support of Talking Heads. Within a short time, Dire Straits became one of the premier popular music acts on the planet having recorded perhaps their biggest hit, “Sultans of Swing”, on some of their initial band demos when the group still referred to themselves as Café Racers. By the beginning of 1979, the band was headlining their “Communiqué” tour doing an astounding 116 shows in 14 countries. An album of the same name was released in June at this same time.

Sultans of Swing Studio Version

Listen to 1978’s, “Sultans of Swing”, by Dire Straits, and try to take notice of Knopfler’s ability to mesh together rhythm guitar playing with lead guitar accenting all while he sings lead the lead vocal. Here is a video of the original audio recording was posted by YouTube user Destin D’Silva on April 29th, 2012.

Life and Background Of A Guitar Sultan

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, to an English mother and Hungarian-Jewish father in 1949, Mark is the middle child between an older sister and younger brother. He and his family moved to his mother’s hometown, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in North East England, when Mark was about seven years old. Bitten early by the music bug, Knopfler has been on a relatively singular path because of it ever since. As a boy, his father purchased him a Hӧfner “V2” electric guitar which was his first instrument. In the debate of ‘cheap vs expensive’ electric guitars, Knopfler is one of many who began his playing on a relatively cheap instrument. Being born in Scotland perhaps predisposes him to an enigmatic sense of storytelling having been born in a country known the world over as a culture of storytellers, songs, and rhythm. When Knopfler reached his mid-twenties he began focusing all of his attention on music. He had already completed an English degree at Leeds University in West Yorkshire, England,

Discovering Dire Straits Video Documentary

Check out this documentary on Dire Straits posted by YouTube user Mark Amca on July 14th, 2015. 

Is Mark Knopfler A Great Guitarist?

Mark Knopfler Guitar Sultan Solo Sydney 1986

When it was performed by Mark Knopfler in Sydney, Australia in 1986. The solo showcased Knopfler’s exceptional guitar skills and was highly praised by the audience. The performance was a part of Knopfler’s tour to promote his album “The Princess Bride” soundtrack. The solo lasted for approximately 7 minutes and was a highlight of the concert.

In 2022, Knopfler seems almost a bygone hero from a bygone era. His band, Dire Straits, founded in 1977, quickly rose to international stardom on the back of Knopfler’s writing and virtuosic guitar playing. True guitar virtuosos, at least in popular music, could be counted on just two hands with fingers left over and Mark Knopfler is just that. Guitar players such as Brian May, guitarist for Queen, Michael Bloomfield from The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and guitarist for Bob Dylan’s infamous 1965 Newport Folk Festival performance, Jimi Hendrix of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton associated with numerous electric band outfits, or Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, are some of the most notable electric guitar virtuosos from a bygone era. Count Knopfler as one of the pack. Listen to his mega-hit, “Sultans of Swing”, or listen to some of his other notable pieces such as “Money for Nothing”, “So Far Away”, “Romeo and Juliet”, or “Walk of Life”. Here you can appreciate the mastery and virtuosity that is Mark Knopfler’s guitar playing and writing. Is he a great guitarist? You be the judge and jury on that one. From a critical standpoint, his playing style might be characterized as almost folk-bluesy encased within an impeccable ability to play a rhythm-lead. Jimi Hendrix had a similar kind of ability to intersplice expansive rhythm guitar playing with poignant lead guitar accents in the same fluid manner as Knopfler.

Knopfler and The Telecaster

Knopfler’s most used and pictured “Telecaster” usage is of him and a 1984 Schecter “Telecaster” copy. While Fender holds domain over “T-style” guitar origins, Mark frequently used the red Schecter copy during the 1970s and up through the beginnings of the 21st century. Debating the age-old topic of whether a “Stratocaster”, “Telecaster”, or “Les Paul” is better for guitar playing is futile as it is a subjective argument no matter who makes a case on the matter. However, “Telecasters” can be considered a ‘guitar’s guitar’ and showcase the idiosyncrasies of any guitar player perhaps better than all the rest. The nature of just two (and sometimes only one) single-coil pickups foments a bare, almost naked kind of approach to guitar playing. While Knopfler is most notably associated with “Stratocasters”, his red Schecter has been pictured countless times and sticks as a picture of Mark Knopfler playing the electric guitar. Aside from his Schecter, Knopfler is known to have several other “Telecaster” guitars. Allegedly Knopfler owns a 1969 Fender “Telecaster Thinline” which he was initially reluctant to keep until he realized the usefulness of the instrument and its tonal capabilities. Knopfler also has been known to have a 1954 Fender “Telecaster” which are colloquially referred to as ‘blackguards’.

What Happened To The Lead Singer Of Dire Straits?

The lead singer of Dire Straits IS Mark Knopfler. Even with him being virtuosic in his guitar playing prowess he found himself able to write and sing lead vocals concurrently, much like Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead. Listen to the YouTube link 

below posted by the official Grateful Dead account on April 24th, 2020,  which features Jerry and ‘The Dead’ playing at Buckeye Lake, Oh, USA, in 1993. Note Jerry’s ability to play a lead and rhythm guitar while also singing a lead vocal. As for Mark Knopfler in 2022, he is not so much on the road touring or in the studio recording new albums anymore. Instead, he lives a relatively quiet life soaking up the successes of his younger days as the driving force behind one of the most popular bands of the 20th century.

Leave a Reply