On 31 May 1986, Mark Knopfler (12 August 1949, Glasgow, Scotland) played a low-key gig at the Grove pub in Holbeck, Leeds, with old friends Steve Phillips (b. Nicholas Stephen Phillips, 18 February 1948, London, England) and Brendan Croker (b. 15 August 1953, Bradford, Yorkshire, England). They were billed as the Notting Hillbillies and each received the princely sum of £22 for their performance. Phillips first met Knopfler in 1968 when both interviewed a local blues and country guitarist (also called Steve Phillips) for the Yorkshire Post. As both journalists played guitar they formed the Duolian String Pickers duo and played together during the late 60s. They split when Knopfler went to university in 1970. When he finished studying three years later he went to London and eventually formed Dire Straits. Meanwhile, Phillips formed the Steve Phillips Juke Band to play rockabilly. In 1976, Croker met Phillips and when the Juke Band split they toured as Nev And Norriss. Four years later, Phillips temporarily retired from music to concentrate on art, and Croker eventually formed the 5 OClock Shadows.
In 1986, Knopfler, flushed with success through Dire Straits, decided the time was right to do something a little different and all three musicians came together. Dire Straits manager Ed Bicknell was recruited as drummer (he had previously played in Mogul Thrash) and with backing musicians such as Guy Fletcher (guitar), Paul Franklin (pedal steel) and Marcus Cliff (bass, of the 5 OClock Shadows), they set out on a tour. They made just one album before returning to concentrate on their main bands.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.