Features and specs of a ’61 Vintage Stratocaster

Posted on 16 CommentsPosted in Guitars, Mark Knopfler gear, Vintage guitars

Mark Knopfler’s “Sultans” Strat (ser.-no. #68354) is from 1961. The second red Fender Strat he played with Dire Straits (ser.no #80470) was from about the same period (apart from the question in how far it was original Fender at all). For this reason I put together a table to give you a survey about the distinctive features that are different on a 1961 Strat compared  with earlier or later Strats.

1961 Stratbeforelater
Body woodalder (ash for models in blonde)light ash (swamp ash) until 1956heavy ash in the 70ies
Fingerboardslab board made of Brazilian rosewoodone-piece maple nack until 1959curved rosewood venue from mid 1962 on, optional maple board in the late 60ies, one-piece maply neck available in the 70ies again
Pick-upsstaggered pole-pieces, formvar wire insulation, magnetic northpole on topmagnetic southpole on top in the early 50iesenamel wire insulation from about mid 1964 on, flush polepieces from 1974 on
Pickguardthree layers (white/black/white) pickguard of celluloid, fixed with 11 screws, screw #3 between middle and neck pick-upone layer plastic pickguard (or bakelite before 1957) until 1959, fixed with 8 screws (a few models with three layers and 8 screws in 1959)screw #3 moved to middle pick-up in 1963, three layers plastic pickguard from 1965 on
Bridge6 individual bridge saddles made of bent steel, separate steel tremolo block,sameno separated tremolo block from 19xx on, diecasted bridge saddles,
Laquerthin nitro laquer, standard was three tone sunburst (yellow/red/black), many custom colours availablethin nitro laquer, standard was two tone sunburst (yellow/black) until 1958, only a few (and rare) custom colours availableglossy polyesther finish from 1968 on
Tunersmade by Kluson, stamped with one line with “Kluson deluxe”samestamped with two lines with “Kluson deluxe” from 1964 on, made by Schaller from 1968 on
Pick-up switch3-way3-way5-way from 1977 on
Body contoursdeeply contoured
- individual differences due to hand work
deeply contoured
- individual differences due to hand work
becoming less contoured from the mid 60ies on
Stratocaster decalgold “spaghetti logo” with two patent numbersgold “spaghetti logo”,
no patent numbers until 1960,
In late 1964 Fender changed to the fatter gold transitional logo,black logo from 1968 on
three patent number 1963-1964, later 4 numbers
Peghead sizesmallsmallbig head from 1966 on
String holdersone butterfly string holderone round holder until 1956two string holders from 1974 on
Number plate / neck fixation4 screw number plate with stamped serial numbersame (1954 models sometimes with serial number on tremolo plate)stamped with big F from 1966on, three hole number plate from 1972 on
Serial numbers5 digits, ca. 50 – 80,000 rangelower numbershigher, starting with the letter L from 1964 on, 6 digits from 1965 on

Detail pictures

The thick rosewood slabboard
Compare the shape of the rosewood fingerboard (behind the nut) on a slabboard Strat (front) and a 1964 Strat (rear)
Polepieces of a 1961 pick-up
Single-line Kluson tuners
Decal with 2 patent numbers
Aluminium pick-guard shield, black bobbins pick-ups

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The King of Clean – Mark Knopfler’s Tone King Imperial amp – Hand-built vintage technology and sound

Posted on 25 CommentsPosted in Amps, Mark Knopfler gear

Everyone who has seen Mark Knopfler live on one of his recent tours might have notived that cool-looking turquoise combo amp next to Knopfler’s Marshall cabinets. Knopfler’s second guitarist Richard Bennet also plays one. It is the Tone King Imperial.

Tone King amps are built from selected quality parts by Mark Bartel in Baltimore. Mark does all the woodworking, upholstery, and electronics assembly himself to have total control about the sound and quality of his products.

The Imperial is a two-channel combo with reverb and tremolo. The output power is about 20 watts, coming from two 6V6 tubes. The two channel make use of 12AX7 pre-amp tube, and one 12AT7 driving the reverb, just like Fender amps from the sixties or seventies. In fact it reminds me a lot of a black-face Fender Deluxe amp, which also has a similar layout and one 12″ speaker. In fact you can read on the Tone King website that the rhythm channel aims for that Fender black-face sound. A volume, treble and bass control is all that is required here. Of course the spring reverb – a fundamental ingredient of the Fender sound – works for both channels (note that on Fender amps it only affects the second channel). It will not surprise you that the reverb circuit uses the same two-spring reverb tank  (acutronics) and the same tubes like Fender.

The second channel also features just three controls: volume, tone and mid-bite – so no bass and treble control here, just on a small Fender tweed amp from the 50ies. The mid-bite adds a midrange peak and tightens the low end, controling the overdrive tone character that can be blended from Fender tweed to Marshall style.

The speaker is custom designed and labelled with ‘Tone King 33’ – manufactured by Eminence (who also built the speakers in most silver-face Fender amps in the 70ies and 80ies).

The recommended retail price for the Tone King Imperial is 1995 USD. More infos on toneking.com.

On the last (2008) tour Mark Knopfler played his red Schecter Telecaster on the song Cannibals through the Tone King Imperial, his ’54 Stratocaster  on the song Our Shangri-La, and his signature MK Strat on Postcards from Paraguay and  True love will never fade. I guess it is the ‘king of clean’ for him and that he hardly ever uses the second channel. Another song to feature this fine amp is Hard Shoulder from Get Lucky (played on a Gretch 6120).

The Tone King Imperial on the 2008 tour. The red Marshall cabinets were driven by two Reinhard amps.
Technician Colin Barton working on Mark Knopfler's Tone King Imperial. Pictures courtesy Guy Fletcher.

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Rare video of Brendan Crocker gig featuring Mark Knopfler

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Dire Straits/ Mark Knopfler live pictures and videos, Misc

Today while surfing youtube I found this rare video which I have never seen before, showing Mark Knopfler as a guest on a Brendan Crocker gig in Leeds, June 18, 1989 (the youtube video title says July 18, June 18 is confirmed and I doubt that there was a second gig one month later). For those who don’t know him, Brendan Crocker is an old friend of Mark’s, also a member of the Notting Hillbillies.

Another guest on this gig was Dire Straits keyboarder Alan Clark.

Mark plays his Pensa MK-1, and on the right side of the stage- next to the bass player – we can spot his Sultans-of-Swing amp, the brown Fender Vibrolux.

I still have a vinyl Brendan Crocker EP single with three tracks from this gig (You Don’t Need Me Here, Railroad Blues, Georgia Crawl)

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