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The Notting Hillbillies

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After the mega-platinum success of Dire Straits' 1984 Brothers in Arms LP, the group's frontman, guitarist extraordinaire Mark Knopfler, opted to temporarily shift gears by forming the Notting Hillbillies, a one-off country side project. Among the band's first recruits was Steve Phillips, a fellow guitar player whom Knopfler had first met in Yorkshire in 1968 when both men interviewed a local country and blues musician (also named, curiously enough, Steve Phillips). Soon, the two aspiring journalists formed the two-man Duolian String Pickers and continued performing together until Knopfler entered college in 1970; after graduating three years later, he moved to London to start Dire Straits.

Phillips, in the meantime, formed a rockabilly outfit, the Steve Phillips Juke Band. In 1976, he met Brendan Croker, a onetime member of the Juke Band, and the pair began performing as Nev and Norris. By 1980, Phillips had left the music scene to focus on an art career, leaving Croker to form Five O'Clock Shadow. In 1986, Knopfler came calling, and in May of that year the Notting Hillbillies played their first gig at a tiny Leeds club with a lineup featuring Knopfler, Phillips, and Croker as well as drummer Ed Bicknell (moonlighting from his day job as Dire Straits' manager), guitarist Guy Fletcher, pedal steel guitarist Paul Franklin, and Croker's fellow Five O'Clock Shadow Marcus Cliffe on bass. A tour followed, although the group's lone album, Missing...Presumed Having a Good Time, didn't appear until 1990, at which point the members of the Notting Hillbillies had already returned to their main projects.

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