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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Tribute To Jim Marshall

Jim Marshall image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
When it comes to the giants of the musical instrument business with a huge influence on the music of today, only two come to mind - Leo Fender (who passed away in 1991) and Jim Marshall. Jim Marshall passed away last week at the ripe old age of 88, and left behind a rich legacy as the creator of the amplifier that was the sound of the rock - a sound just as loved and pertinent today as it was back in the early-60's when Marshall Amplifiers began.

As a tribute to Jim Marshall, I thought it fitting to present a short list of facts about the man and his creation:
  • Jim Marshall was actually a drummer, not a guitar player. 
  • He was a very successful drum teacher, with as many as 65 students at a time.
  • One of Jim's students was Mitch Mitchell from The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
  • Marshall Amplifiers actually started in the back of his drum shop in 1962, with the inspiration to design his own amps coming from players like Pete Townshend of The Who and Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore, mostly because Fender amps were so expensive in Britain.
  • The original Marshall amps were based on the Fender Bassman. Since many of the parts used in the design of the Bassman weren't readily available in Britain, Marshall used parts that were more common to the country, which helped to change the sound from the relatively clean Fender to the much ballsier rock sound that we're familiar with.
  • It took 6 prototypes before Marshall came up with an amp that they felt they could sell, the JTM 45.
  • The first model received 23 orders the first day. Within 2 years the company had 16 employees and were making 20 amps a week.
  • The first international order came from Roy Orbison (who you don't usually think of as having a Marshall sound).
  • Marshall twice won the Queen's Award For Export Achievement, and was appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire (which is just below knighthood) in 2004.
  • He was regarded as one of the wealthiest individuals in Britain, but donated millions of pounds to various charities over the decades.
  • Marshall suffered from hearing loss, but not from listening to loud amps. He attributed the problem to playing with loud brass in orchestras during the 50s.
  • He preferred a single-malt scotch which was bottled just for him.
  • He refused to sell the company many times over the years because his name was on the product, and he was afraid what might happen should someone else gain control (as was the case with Leo Fender).
Rest in peace, Jim, and good luck on your new journey.


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Seb said...

excellent post by all means, thank you for these facts that were very interesting to read !

Rand Bliss said...

Very well said Bobby, and thanks for the extra facts.

This man was one of those rare breeds of risk-taking innovators that leaves most modern mortals too large a gap to fill by just settling for imitation.

Influential to the highest degree and integral to shaping the sound of rock since the beginning. Classic Rock wouldn't have become what it is without his amps. Who else can make that claim?


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