David “Pick” Withers
Conjuring Mood Grooves with Dire Straits
Called “the biggest British rock band of the ‘80s” by Classic Rock magazine—and with sales of more than 100 million albums and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018—the story of Dire Straits’ rise to fame from pubs to huge stadiums begins with its co-founder, drummer David “Pick” Withers. The distinctive sound of the band is certainly tied to guitarist Mark Knopfler’s sparkling Fender Stratocaster tone and gruff baritone vocals, but Wither’s innovative grooves are an essential element, as well. His restrained yet extraordinarily supportive approach to driving the band—and augmenting Knopfler’s guitar lines and songs—was showcased on four classic Dire Straits albums, Dire Straits, Communiqué, Making Movies, and Love over Gold, before Withers left to pursue other interests in 1982.
Nicknamed “Pick” when he was in a band with two other Davids—the members thought he looked like a character out of Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers—Withers became a professional musician at 17 years old. He toured Germany with the Berkeley Squares and Italy with the Primitives, before landing the house drummer gig at Rockfield Studios in Wales. Withers was still doing sessions and sideman gigs when he signed on full-time with Dire Straits after the band signed its major-label contract with Vertigo/PolyGram late in 1977.
After exiting Dire Straits, Withers played with a number of musicians—including Robert Plant, Joan Baez, and Gerry Rafferty—and he recently formed a new band, Slim Pickin’s, to perform classic R&B covers.