Fender Stratocaster 1961

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Serial No.:68354
Colour:stripped to bare wood when he got it, refinished to red in late 1978 (similar to fiesta red but more intense), finish cracked in early 90ies and was refinished again
Woods:alder body / maple neck/ Brazilian rosewood fingerboard
Pickups:two original pickups, one DiMarzio FS-1 first in middle (1977/78) and later (after summer 1978) in neck position, was probably replaced to an original Strat pickup (or reissue) in the 90ies
Strings:only little information available, according to David Knopfler Mark played 09-038 strings with Dire Straits, possibly D’addario 09 – 42 on the Sailing to Philadelphia tour
First seen with MK:summer 1977
Still in MK’s possession/Last seen:yes



Info: This was Mark Knopfler’s first Stratocaster. This guitar changed his tone (he mainly played a Gibson Les Paul Special before) and playing style, e.g. he immediately adapted some chords and patterns of Sultans of Swing – which was originally composed on his National steel guitar – to the new sound he got with this guitar plugged into a Vibrolux amp. This Strat- and his second red Fender Strat, the one with the maple neck – were the guitars to create Knopfler’s unique guitar sound on the first two Dire Straits albums. It is almost impossible to tell which of the two Strats was played on which song on the albums. On tour he normally prefered one of the two and used the other as backup, changing his preference after a few weeks again (a detailed list here).

The volume knob was replaced with a black plastic knob. In fact the poti itself was replaced to one with a solid shaft so that the original knob did not fit anymore. This was already true on the first available pictures of this guitar so presumably the modification had been done before he got it.  The volume knob was on the middle poti. We don’t know if only the knobs were exchanged or if the function of the potis was modified as well (compare the blog post on the idea behind the  iSound-ST).

The tremolo back plate is missing, some pictures seem to indicate that the tremolo had 5 springs.

After he changed to Schecters for the Making Movies tour in 1980, this guitar was only rarely used but made a comeback for the recording of On Every Street, and also on some songs on the Sailing to Philadelphia tour in 2001. The guitar was restored to the original condition (no black volume knob, volume knob on the upper poti again, no DiMarzio anymore) as can be seen on the picture  below.

He still owns it, it is one of the guitars that seem to be around in the room over his British Grove studio.



(click to display at high resolution)


Before the guitar was refinished to red (1977)

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16 thoughts on “Fender Stratocaster 1961

  1. 1)I always wondered about this girl pic on the body
    where does it comes from ?
    is it a paint ? a sticker ?
    Why is it only on few pictures and not all the time ?
    Does it mean the guitar had been refinished more than one time ?
    do you know any pictures of Mark playing live with this ?
    the only ones I know are the ones where he’s laying on the ground

    2)when I saw him during 2005 tour, I was a bit far from the stage, and at first I thought he was playing on this strat. I tought “my god !” he’s playing Telegraph Road on the red 61 ! Because I had in mind that the guitar had made his comeback in 2001 (WII and WT)
    But it’s only the day after I realized it was the signature model !
    shame ! I would prefer he kept this one, instead of playing a recent guitar.
    I like the idea that a guitarist is playing on the same old guitar from many years, like Gilmour on his black strat, SRV on #1, Gibbons on pearly gates, EC on Blackie or Brownie, Page on his 59 LP, and so on
    I find that playing on a guitar built nowadays loss a little bit of magic….

    But on another hand, hendrix was “against” vintage-mania, he only pleyd guitars from his era, i.e 66-69 guitars. So I guess if he was alive, maybe would he play strats from the 90 or 2000 ? who knows…..

  2. nice one the late picture uploaded with Phil Lynott.
    according to Mark’s clothes, it looks like being the same gig shown in BBC Arena , isn’t it ?

  3. Also if you have a look at the grain on the back of the neck, it clearly shows its not a quarter sawn neck, due to the knots in the timber. Just something i thought i would mention.

  4. Definitely 2 piece alder body after seeing the unfinished photos, considering its not a quarter sawn neck i would also assume the body is just a standard cut too.

  5. . He is a disgruntled ex-PRS deealr, and there are plenty of sites explaining the reason, so I won’t go into it here. Just don’t believe a word he says.PRS started hand carving guitars in his apartment, and has gone through many changes to his present factory with CNC machines, etc.Too much history to delve into here, but a little searching on the web will be an education(except for the Ed Roman BS)There may be better guitars out there, some at least equal if not better as in Thorn guitars, Baker, MacInturff(sp) to name a few. Gibson and Fender Custom Shop are supposed to be right up there, I just don’t have any experience with them.I love my PRS guitars, especially the Custom 22 Soapbar models with 3 P90 pickups. I have one of each, a maple board one, and a rosewood board one.Also a McCarty model with Indian Rosewood neck and WCR pickups.Also have 2 different custom 24 s, though the same, sound a bit different from each other.Any questions shoot them to me, if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out. sorry to ramble on.Allan.

    1. At least originally, a 3 way. You can see in some of the above photos that Mark is using electrical tape to hold it in the “4th” position, because the switch doesn’t have one of it’s own.

  6. Mark demonstrates the guitar in its current form in the Mark Knopfler – Guitar Stories video.

    As its being pointed out, the guitar has been refinished after the Dire Straits era because the lacquer cracked. To me, the color seen on the Guitar Stories is definitely not Fiesta Red (as it used to be during Dire Straits times) nor Hot Rod Red (colour of his Signature Strat). Fiesta has a distinctive orange and sometimes salmon hue to it. Hot Rod Red gets very pinkish under light.

    Mark’s 61 Strat in the Guitar Stories video has a very deep red to it, even under strong light. In my opinion, the color is IMHO closest to Dakota Red. I say “closest to” because it’s clearly a custom paint job. When you will google Dakota Red you need to be careful, because Fender currently puts out a lot of Dakota Red Stratocasters with a very dark, nearly brownish Dakota Red. They apply this brownish Dakota Red both to brand new looking as well as aged guitars. If you search carefully though you will find good matches.

    1. Hi!

      I need to self correct myself. It is really tricky to try to attribute vintage colors to MKs 1961 Strat for a couple of reasons:
      – in past days, Fender colors were never consistent. Fiesta Red could be going more into pink. Dakota could be bright red or almost brown. Best is to look into a Japanese book called “Galaxy of Strats”
      – Mark’s guitar is a refin. It was refined at least twice. The first incarnation of the color until it cracked in late Dire Straits times was quite close to Fiesta Red. It had that classic orangey hue with a shot salmon. The second incarnation is a lot more tricky to describe. It does look like hot rod red but it never turns pink. Hot Rod Red in terms of RGB response has a tiny bit of blue in the mix which makes it reflect pink if the light around it is cold. The current refin color of Marks 1961 on no picture reflects pink. It is a very tomato type of color. In a bright light environment it is also brighter, but in dark it can get like ketchup. I tried to make some sense of what that could be. What would inspire Mark? The only guess I have is the red shade of his Maserati sports car. If you investigate the history of that shade of red you find a color called Rosso Corsa. It is the red used by the Italian sports cars in racing sports in the 50s and 60s. A counterpart to British Racing Green used by the UK drivers. That color has no blue in it. It simply is red, with a certain degree of intensity that allows it to look even a tiny bit orange. Ferrari still uses the color today. So this is my bet for MKs guitar color: Rosso Corsa.

  7. With regard to the strings that Mark Knopfler used, I worked with him from 1980 to 1996 and in virtually that entire time on electrics he used D’Addario XL120 009 – 042 on nearly everything. The red Tele had XL110 010-046 and we did try those on a couple of others in the studio for a ‘different sound’ and also I think trying 11-52’s on very rare occasions on open tuning/slide setups. Acoustics were D’Addario 011-052’s. We had a deal with D’Addario but we also reckoned they worked best for MK as we changed strings every day on the main guitars to keep the brightness.

    1. Cool, thank you very much for the info, Ron. It’s so nice to have you on board here. Do you remember more stories and maybe other secrets of the trade with MK?

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