Jim Marshall OBE passes away aged 88
Last Thursday, Jim Marshall, the legendary founder of Marshall Amplification, passed away, at the age of 88. The man often referred to as ‘The Father of Loud’ began his musical career as a singer and drummer during the WWII, notably building himself a portable PA system, so that his vocals could be heard over his drumming. His drumming career continued, and Marshall became a known player in England. In addition, he gave lessons, having shared his skills with the likes of Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Little Richard’s drummer, Micky Waller, among countless others.
Marshall invested the money he saved from his somewhat relentless workload, into a music store in West London. Initially selling drums, and then expanding into guitars, he found a growing number of customers (which included Pete Townsend and Ritchie Blackmore) were in need of an amplifier similar to the expensive imported US models, but louder, and cheaper. Recruiting an 18-year old former EMI electronics engineer, Dudley Craven, Jim Marshall created, at the sixth attempt, the amplifier that would change rock ‘n’ roll history forever.
Jim Marshall’s contribution to the musical world is immeasurable, as the many, many articles and obituaries published around the world since his sad passing will testify. So, rather than add to the list of obituaries, here are some of the players who truly knew how to exploit Marshall ‘s incredible amp designs and created a whole new sound in the process.
Jim Marshall described Jimi Hendrix as his ‘ambassador’, and it is true to say there is no other player more closely associated with Marshall amps. Hendrix discovered the amps after sitting in on a session with Cream. Providing higher gain, and more overdrive than anything he had played before, Jimi expanded the possibilities of the electric guitar exponentially.
It is well known that The Who’s guitarist and songwriter played a major role in the development of the Marshall amp. According to an interview in 1996, Townshend, unhappy with his current amp, said to Marshall “I want it to be louder, but I want my sound”. Well if you’re in a band with Keith Moon and John Entwistle…
Slash raves about his Marshall amps, regularly citing them as an essential part of his tone. Since the early days with Guns ‘n’ Roses, to the present day, the guitarist has never been seen with anything other than a Marshall behind him (most recently his own AFD100 signature head). Slash described Jim as a friend in a personal statement following his death, and remarked, “… his legacy will live on forever”.
Marshall amps will forever be thought of as ‘one louder’ thanks to Nigel Tufnel, the Spinal Tap guitarist. With his specially made Marshall head, with controls that go ‘up to 11’, the Marshall amp was further established as the tool for those who want to play loud. In fact, the phrase ‘turn it up to eleven’ has become a byword for pushing things that little bit further…
There are too many other iconic players in Marshall ‘s rich legacy to mention here. All that remains to be said is that Jim Marshall changed music and popular culture by pushing things beyond where convention said to stop. After 50 years of waking the neighbours, Jim Marshall, we salute you. May you rest in peace (though, I suspect it’s likely to be a bit louder than that…)
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