Fender Stratocaster 1954

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Serial No.:059
Colour:original two-tone sunburst
Woods:ash body / one-piece maple neck
Pickups:original 1954 Fender Strat pickups
Strings:012 (wound g-string)
First seen with MK:1996, Golden heart tour
Still in MK’s possession/Last seen:yes



Info: This is an all-original Fender Stratocaster from the first year of its production, 1954. Mark got it from his friend Paul Kennerly, writer of Poor Boy Blues – the Grammy awarded first song of the Neck & Neck album by Mark Knopfler & Chet Atkins.The guitar made its recording debut on the Golden Heart album, but was possibly also used on Atlantis, Mark’s tribute to the Shadows which was also recorded in 1996. Mark calls it his  “Jurassic Strat”.

In fact Mark’s seems to regard it as his tool of choice to get the Hank Marvin (Shadows) sound, a guitar sound that has fascinated him since his childhood. Just like Hank Marvin, he puts a set of heavy strings with a wound g-string (012) on this guitar, and also often [edited: “often” added, see comment #2] plays it with a pick instead of his trademark fingerpicking style. Likewise, he uses the tremolo in a similar way as Hand Marvin: no left hand vibrato, just tremolo from the Strat’s floating tremolo system.

All Strats before 1957 had an ash body, so does this. The plastic parts were made of bakelite, a rather brittle material, the reason why often the pickup caps show significant wear (Fender changed to white plastic in 1957).

Strats from this period are extremely sought after, and thus traded  at a very high price. As Mark’s is in excellent  condition, it will be somewhere between $ 50,000 – 100,000 (without considering that it is a Mark Knopfler guitar).

He still uses it on stage, normally for So far away (the album version was not recorded with this guitar of course) but sometimes he uses one of his Signature Strats (also with heavy strings) instead.



(click to enlarge)

Bakelite parts: note the wear on the pickup caps and the shape of the tone and volume knobs

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7 thoughts on “Fender Stratocaster 1954

  1. the guitar was also used on Trawlerman song in USA tour 2005, and Boothbay 2006

    strange because the studio version sounds obviously Les Paul (although Mark said in an itw that he used the 54 strat in studio, but I guess he was wrong)

    of course it became his Hank Marvin soudn strat, but he has not always played it with a plectrum :
    in 96 : I’m the fool was played with fingers
    again in 2005 and 2010, So far away was played with fingers (while it was played with a pick in 2006 and 2011)
    he played it also with the NHB, and mostly with fingers

  2. Trawlerman indeed sounds like the Les Paul …
    I did not want to say that he always uses a pick with this guitar but occasionally, I will edit the article to make it more clear.

    1. Hey Ingo! I was just curious if you knew exactly the type of 012s he uses on his jurassic strat. D’Addario EJ21 12-52? What would be your guess? Thanks!

  3. “Trawlerman” sounds like it’s played on a middle pickup to me. If you rolled the tone off a Strat middle pickup and set your amp up right, you can get a pretty close sound, especially with Fender CS54 pickups. I’d be pretty happy to guess that Mark is right about using the Strat on that track, he just presumably doesn’t have his amps set up for the same sound live since I guess he’d also be running his Les Paul through them for the same shows.

  4. On the interview CD which comes up on eBay sometimes regarding the Golden Heart album, Mark says the ’59 Strat was gifted to him by Paul Kennerly – an English singer songwriter, and once husband to Emmylou Harris.

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