GuitarsMark Knopfler gearVintage guitars

Anything better than a red Schecter Strat? – Yes, two of them.

Today something about one of Mark Knopfler most famous guitars …

In 1980 Mark Knopfler started to play a red Schecter Strat on stage instead of the red Fenders he played before. Everyone knows this guitar – it was the guitar on the Alchemy live CD/video, on Live Aid, and on countless other TV concerts from the 80ies or 90ies. He still owns this guitar and uses it occasionally these days.

However, rather overlooked is that there was a second red Schecter, one that looks almost identically to the first one. On stage it was played by rhythm guitarist Hal Lindes, e.g. on ‘Once upon a time in the west’ on Alchemy. I think that this guitar did not belong to Hal Lindes but to Mark Knopfler as well (possibly the blue Schecter that Hal Lindes played, too, while Lindes’ white ’59 Fender Strat definitely was his.)

Two red Schecter Strats (middle), Mark’s main axe is the
one with white pick-ups, the second one has black PUs.
Left and right are the two red Fender Strats, far left the
sunburst Tele Custom featured in the last post.

All these Schecters – the ones mentioned so far plus a black Telecaster and a sunburst Strat – were bought at Rudy’s Music Stop in New York in 1980 (the red Telecaster of Walk of Life and the white Schecter Strat were later acquisitions).

There is only one hint (the interview quoted below) that the 2nd red Schecter was Knopfler’s but I think it was likely that he ordered all of them together. This interview was from Guitar Player magazine in 1984:

GP: Are your guitars heavily modified?

MK: Not really. One Schecter has Seymour Duncan Vintage pickups, and another red one has heavier Seymour Strat pickups in it.

We know that Knopfler soon (early 1981) replaced the original Schecter F500T pick-ups, note  the white PU covers from then on. These replacement PUs had staggered magnet poles (the Schecter PUs were flat) and are probably the mentioned “Seymour Duncan Vintage pickups”. I guess “another red one” is the 2nd red Strat (theoretically the red Schecter Telecaster of Walk of Life fame is another possibility ). See the following picture of that 2nd Strat and note the staggered magnet poles:

Hal Lindes playing that 2nd red Schecter Strat

So we have Vintage Seymour Duncans on #1, and heavier on #2. I remember exactly that unlike today Seymour Duncan’s product range was rather straightforward in 1981 –  five models called SSL 1 – 5. These were:

SSL 1 : vintage Strat replica, staggered Alnico 5 magnets

SSL 2: like SSL 1 but with Alnico 2 magnets

SSL 3: hot wound, flat poles

SSL 4: quarter inch magnets, flat poles (similar to the Schecter F500T)

SSL 5: like SSL 1, but hotter wound

The SSL 1 was by far the most common of these, and the SSL 5 was heavier but looked the same. For these reasons I claimed on my vintage Dire Straits Guitar Page that they were SSL 1 / 5 but there is no direct evidence for this (later there were Alnico Pros on #1 but these were not availabe in the early 80ies). But who knows, maybe he has SSL 2 in #1, or maybe everything is different from what we think.

58 thoughts on “Anything better than a red Schecter Strat? – Yes, two of them.

  1. Another good article Ingo. When you get a chance do you think you could do one on less high profile guitars like the Danelectros and others that seem to be appearing on more recent albums?

    There’s already some fantastic info on your blog… keep it coming.


  2. This is pure “gold” what you know, and thank you ever so much for sharing this ;o)
    I’m in the proces of having a custom guitar (strat style) made for me. I am planning to order it with swamp ash body, and birdseye neck/fretboard inpired by these red schecter, but I am in so much doubt on which pick up to choose. What would you recomend Ingo? I have thought of duncans antiquity, but never thought of the SSL 1 (untill now that is)

    All the best and thanx again for you wonderful work on this blog

  3. I personnaly think that the wood and the pure sound of the guitar is a more important factor than the pick-ups. Here it depends on what you favour: old Schecter sound (F500T) or 81/83 sound (SSL-1) or the Alnico Pros in 1985.

    Swamp ash should be good for the Knopfler tone although in fact most of his Strats are other woods (only the ’54 and the Signature are swamp ash I think). I heard that the red Schecter was mahagony (!!) body, and the sunburst Strat was birch I think.

  4. I thought I just read it somewhere, but I might be mistaking it from reading the specs of the MK signature strat (which is a joke in my opinion, besides the colour it has very little to do with Knopfler IMO)

  5. I know his danelectro is called a DC-3, he probably got it from Rudy’s. The rosewood make a good bottleneck guitar. His 54 tele is probably ash body as is his 54 sunburst strat. Fender switched to alder late 1955 i beleive. On the newer albums he seems to use alot of his 58 gibson les paul. He pairs his LP’s with marshall amps to give it that classic tone. Eric Clapton is the master mind behind that. Gibson Les Paul + Marshall = Classic LP Tones. He plays his LP’s alot on the neck pickup. Early Clapton has very similar les paul tone. Listen to Cream and the Bluesbreakers.

  6. About the red strat issue… I know that Hank Marvin’s red Strat was swamp ash. Mark Knopfler would have probably followed his footsteps. Though knowing Knopfler at the time he probably chose the strat more for the looks. Alot of his tone, I have found, comes from the MXR Analog Delay and by him just using his finger style. Your sound will change dramtically between studio(Clear,Exact Tones), to Live(Depends on the build of the club). So I think when we here his tone In the 78-80 time, it’s more due to Live vs. Studio. I have 2 Alder strats and they both sound similar to him. It is just a matter of whether you can play like him.

  7. Indigo I have a question, what pots do you think knopfler would used in his candy red schecter strat? I was thinking maby 250 because it’s the standard. Also about the pickguard. Is it 1 ply or 3 and is it an 8-hole?
    Are the 2 knobs called dome knobs/Round Tops? The neck kinda looks flamed maple like, or even birdseye. Schecters now only use birdseye.
    Thanks Man.

  8. Yeah, the ’54 Tele and ’54 Strat are swamp ash, so is the Signature. Noone knows what the red 60ies maple neck was (I bet not even Knopfler, he doesn’t have it anymore anyway).

    Don’t know about the Hank Marvin Strat, besides a maple neck Strat he had some red Strats with rosewood as well. One thing is sure: if we today (internet …) know that Hank Marvin played this or that, then it does not mean that this knowledge was availabe in 1977 when Knopfler got his Strats, he simply bought what he found in a shop in case he liked it.

  9. AFAIK the Schecter have standard 250 kOhms pots, however there was a little cap and a resistor that bridged the volume pot to reduce treble loss when turning down.

  10. Not the SSL 5, I would think these were in that 2nd red Schecter Strat (with black pick-ups, no covers, see article), so SSL1 or maybe the Alnico Pros which he had later. I don’t know when he changed these, you might email Seymour Duncan support to ask which year these were introduced.

  11. I’ve been talking alot lately with Schecter, and they mentioned that at one point mark knopfler had schecter monster tone pickups in his schecter. They guaranteed this 100%.

  12. Personally if your going to have a guitar made, talk to Rudy’s music in New York about it. They built his schecter guitar as well as his pensa’s and even probably all he plays with today. I’ve talked to schecter,Pensa,Rudy’s,Suhr,etc… who should you trust, the comapany or the craftsman.

  13. Hey Indigo, What wood is, (the main axe)mad from. And also what kind of neck wood is it?
    -swamp ash
    -hard rock maple
    -flamed maple

  14. The red Schecter Strat is said to be mahagony body, neck is obviously birds-eye maple. Don’t know about the red Tele.
    BTW, my name is Ingo, not Indigo 😉
    The first pick-ups were (AFAIK) F500T which were similar to the monstertones but not identical. Dermot, can you confirm?

  15. I did a little research and the only thing I could find out was schecter started making their own guitars in 1989. 1 site suggested Monster Tones came out around that time. Maby Mark has them in some studio guitar. So you think that Mark probably know has the alnico pros in? I went and saw Mark in concert in about late july, and I was wondering how he gets his gibson’s to sound like that. From what all I could see he only had an erney ball volume pedal. I was also wanting to find out any add. electronics in the schecter. I know he has that 3 mini switch to activate the pickups individually. Any add. info would be great. I’m trying to save up money and custom make one like Mark’s. This may be to much to ask, but could you send a list as if you were going to make your own guitar of all the things that were in Mark’s schecter, like body wood, neck, pickups, etc… Thanks

  16. The original Schecter company (by David Schecter and Tom Anderson) started in the late 70ies. They ware a supplier of quality replacement parts, and also build their own guitars from these parts. Mark’s is from this time. The last info I have it that in the mid 80ies he has Alnico pros.
    The three mini switches were originally to switch on/off or to tap the pick-up (each had three positions, on, half, full coil) but neither the SSL1 or the Alnico Pros were tapped, the Schceter F500Ts were.

  17. I learned cool trick w/ the volume pedal that you mentioned. That sure saves alot of money. I have a Boss FV-500H, probably an average type of pedal. I paid around $60 for it next to the $120 Erney Ball. You do loose a little treble at high volume, but works great at medium softer volume. My pedal is a little more noisy though. How do you solve a noisy pedal? PB Blaster?

  18. Mark never used SSL-5s and neither did he Monster Tones. If Schecter says so, they lie, and that’s possible as the current Schecter company is part of ESP Guitars and has nothing to do with the Schecter of the 70s and 80s.

    The truth is that Mark bought his Schecters with Schecter F500T (tapped) pickups. He replaced the ones on his main axe with SSL-1s. His second red Schecter still got the F500Ts. Around 1985 he replaced the pickups on his main red Schecter again, now with APS-2s (Alnicos).

  19. I forgot to ask something, Ingo, you said the SSL-1s on Marks main Schecter weren’t tapped, so, what became then the function of the 3 toggle switches?

  20. Eric, please read my article again, I also wrote that he got the F500T in them, and replaced them with SSL1 and later APS-2 in the main Schecter. Note that the other also had staggered pole pieces on the picture above (F500T was flat), and read the reasons why I suspect these are SSL5.

    The SSL1s were in fact not tapped, they were the reissue of a 50ies Strat pick-up. I guess the toggle switch then only switched between on and off.

  21. Hi Ingo, wow reading all this is like work ha ha, what a can of worms! Yes Mark’s red and sunburst Schecters were Schecter 500T pickups, they were never monster tones (also made by Tom Anderson), they were introduced after the first Schecter sale in 1983. Also just to confirm Ingo’s comments, Tom also said the following on a forum years ago ..

    “i had a hand in that guitar. it was indeed mahogany, and i remember it being so dark sounding that we thought he would hate it. his first schecter [Sunburst Stolen] was made with a birch body and he loved it. it was stolen and the red one was the replacement. ”

    Tom still made pickups for Schecter even when it was sold to a Japanese company they were called Superrocks.

    On the old maple fender sultans strat (my fav) John Suhr said the following ..

    “Mark told me at the time when I met him in the early 80’s that that was the original guitar (Maple neck) that he had used, I assume Sultans era. The Body wasnt a Fender and the neck was a fingerboard maple neck that looked sketchy, it had been planed so flat it was terrible so we put a Schecter neck on it. The whole guitar was a basket case. My memory could be failing but that is what I remember (pretty clearly). Basically Mark could pick up the most unplayable guitar in the shop but it never mattered, he always could play it and get his tone.”

    Now there you go, obsessed? you bet!.

  22. I own a red Schecter strat. It is serial #18. I am the second owner. I know there’s many that were cobbled up from parts, but it has a Schecter logo on the headstock like I have seen described.

  23. just a question about Shecter PUs :
    as they can be activate indivually, are thes combinations possibles :
    – bridge + neck
    – the 3 PU together

    and if so, are they DS songs with these combinations ?
    Once upon a time on Alchemy always sounded strange to me : it seems neck, but sometimes no. Could it be neck + bridge, or the 3 together ?

    and another one : on strat, Mark used to switch between 1+2 to neck, as we can see on Sultans-Chorus 78. But did he switch on shecters ? I’ve never seen him doing that on videos, but on Where do you think….wiesbaden 81, the end solo sounds neck, while the rest of the song sounds 1+2.

  24. Yeah, the end of where do you think you’re going on that concert is neck PU, but there is a part before (at the beginning of the last solo that seems in fact to be PU 1& 3. OUATITW sounds like neck PU to me.

  25. so, the combination 1+2+3 exists on shecter guitars ?
    What does it sound like ?
    any examples ? (DS or others artists)
    I have read on Gilmourish that Gilmour’s strat has a 1+3 switch. And indeed, Gilmour live solos sounds sometimes both dark (as neck) and bright (as bridge at the same time.
    But I don’t know any examples with the 3 PUs together.

    Yes Once upon a time sounds neck PU, but not as darker as a “normal” neck PU. And sometimes, it sounds like middle PU to me. But as I don’t see Mark switching during the song, it must be neck (but a thin neck ;))

  26. I have a theory that the second schecter that Hal Lindes played had a brass nut. You can see pictures of Mark holding it and I thought it was his main red schecter before the pu’s were changed but seems that jis #1 main red schecter has a white (bone/plastic?) nut. In the picture top you can also get a glimpse of the blue schecter – wonder where that is now?

  27. and on the pic, we can see that the 2 strats don’t have the black knobs, so maybe the original fender poti was already back ?

  28. I was wondering, which lacquer did Schecter use (tell me of Mark’s CAR and Sunburst Strat for example), nitro or poly?

  29. If you watch Alchemy it seems that Once Upon a Time in the West is played with the same guitar as Sultans of Swing and Local Hero. But the guitar on OUaTitW sounds the same as LH whereas SS sounds a lot thinner. The guitar used on SS sounds like Fender pickups and the others more like DiMarzio. In my opinion you couln’d get that much more thinness by switching amps or effects. So one reasonable explanation is that he had two identical guitars, one with Fender and the other with DiMarzio pickups.

  30. Right, the same guitar is played on all these songs – the same guitar with the same pick-ups (seymour Duncans, probably SSL-1). The Fender / DiMarzio pick-ups were in the red Fender Strat he played before he changed to the Schecter.

    The pick-up combination was different (neck on OUATITW, bridge&middle on Sultans, neck&middle I think on Local Hero), and there was possibly a different amp setting for each song.

  31. Hi,

    did Schecter mix more gold colour into the CAR lacquer? I have got an Fender Classic 60 in Candy Apple Red and it looks quite brighter and more different than the red on the Schecter strat.

  32. There was no gold or silver mixed into the laquer to get CAR. Instead, the guitar is first painted gold (or silver) and then covered with a tranparent red laquer. Some CAR guitars have golden undercoat, others silver, and look different for this reason.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.