Jim Marshall, the creator of Marshall amplifiers, passed away just last week. I, personally, didn’t feel as though there was much hoopla surrounding it. However, this could just be because I’m sometimes stuck in my own dimension… called life. So many of my favorite records had his amplifier’s signature sound all over it and I felt it worthy to honor the man behind the sound. I’ve always been fascinated by those who decide to create an amplifier or guitar or… you name it, from scratch. I don’t have that engineering skill or desire, but some who do go on to change the sound of music forever. Jim Marshall was one of those.
I found this article on Bobby Owsinski’s blog discussing little factoids about the man. Many of these were news to me, perhaps many will be to you as well. Enjoy.
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.
- 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).