The relationship between Mark Knopfler and his late fellow guitar – the great Chet Atkins was one of the greatest mutual admiration. That was manifesting itself on record around this time in 1990, with the delightful album that they have made together, the Grammy-winning ‘Neck and Neck.’
Chet Atkins for his part said of Mark: “He’s a finger-picker, but he’s self-taught, I don’t think he’s ever really copied, anyone. He kind of figured it out for himself, and that’s the guy that comes up with something different, usually, the fella that doesn’t know any better. Wonderful player.”
The two fingerpickers have clearly enjoyed the pleasure, and challenge, of playing with each other. The video was recorded during the duo’s performance at the Secret Policeman’s Third Ball, a series of charity fundraiser concerts held at the end of March 1987. They kick off with a very Atkins-y take on the classic “I’ll See You in My Dreams” before slowing down for John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
The two put aside the acoustic guitars we normally associate them with (Chet and his innovative nylon-string solid-body Gibson Chet Atkins CEC that he used for much of the ‘80s, and Mark with his 14-fret National Style 0), to pick a pair of matching Gibson SJ-200 Celebrity flattops.
The collaboration proved fruitful for the two guitarists, reinvigorating both and leading the two to record a popular album together, called ‘Neck and Neck,’ which came out in 1990 and yielded two Grammy awards: Best country vocal collaboration (“Poor Boy Blues”) and Best country instrumental performance (“So Soft Your Goodbye”).