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Sting/Phil Collins/EricClapton

Peter McGuire

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1949–1976: Childhood and early life

Knopfler was born in Glasgow, Scotland, to an English mother and a Hungarian Jewish father[7], an architect whose anti-fascist sympathies forced him to flee the regime of his native Hungary.[8] The family first moved to Scotland, but then settled in Knopfler's mother's home town of Blyth, in the north-east of England, when he was around 7 years old. There, he and his younger brother David attended Gosforth Grammar School, where he was inspired by his uncle Kingsley's harmonica and boogie-woogie piano playing. Later, in his teens, he wanted to buy an expensive Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster just like Hank Marvin's, but had to settle for a £50 twin-pick-up Höfner Super Solid.[9] During the 1960s he formed and joined anonymous schoolboy bands, and listened to singers such as Elvis Presley and guitarists Chet Atkins, Scotty Moore, B.B King, Django Reinhardt, Hank Marvin and James Burton. At age 16, he made a local TV appearance as half of a harmony duo, along with a friend from school named Sue Hercombe.[9]

In 1967, having displayed a flair for English,[9] Knopfler studied journalism for a year at Harlow Technical College.[10] At the end of the course he secured a job in Leeds as a junior reporter on the Yorkshire Evening Post.[11] Two years later, he decided to further his studies and eventually went on to graduate with a degree in English at the University of Leeds.[12] He left his job as a reporter, and, hoping to pursue a career in music, performed with pub bands around town. He worked as a part-time lecturer at Loughton College and played with mates in a band called the Café Racers,[13] during this period. He also played in a few bands such as Silver Heels and a duo with long-time associate UK bluesman Steve Phillips, who was later to be a member of The Notting Hillbillies. It was also in Harding's studio Bramley, Leeds, that in April 1970 Knopfler recorded a "demo" disk of an original (but unreleased) song: "Summer's Coming My Way".The song was written by Knopfler himself. Personnel on the recording were Mark Knopfler (guitar and vocals), Steve Phillips (second guitar), Dave Johnson (bass) and Paul Granger (percussion). Johnson and Granger were members of Knopfler's Silverheels group, which also included Mick Dewhirst on vocals.

Knopfler later moved to London and joined a High Wycombe-based band called Brewers Droop, appearing on the album The Booze Brothers. One night while spending some time with friends, the only guitar available was an old acoustic with a badly warped neck that had been strung with extra-light strings to make it playable. Even so, he found it impossible to play unless he finger-picked it. He said in a later interview, "That was where I found my 'voice' on guitar." Mark joined brother David in a band under the name Café Racers but also found himself another musical partner in David's flatmate, John Illsley, initially a guitarist who changed over to bass guitar and became the only other member of Dire Straits to figure throughout the band's career.

Edited by Peter McGuire
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