On April 5, 2012, Jim Marshall, a.k.a., the Lord of Loud, Father of Loud, King of Krunch, and other appropriate titles, passed away at the age of 88. His passing was not trumpeted in a manner similar to that of Steve Jobs and similar tech shucksters and perhaps it needn’t be. Why? Because Jim Marshall’s innovations were not only used by legions of professionals, amateurs, and hobbyists, but they were heard and enjoyed by more people than have ever used a PC, Mac, iPhone, or tablet computer, or suffered through a Jobs tirade. Great Britain’s Jim Marshall created the most sought after guitar amplifiers of all time, perhaps even surpassing Leo Fender’s prolific offerings on this side of the Atlantic.
Starting out in the early 1960s, Marshall, urged on by soon to be iconic guitar players, began developing prototypes for guitar amplifiers much larger and more powerful than what was currently available. Also he was seeking a unique, more harmonically rich, “krunchy” if you will, sound. At the time, USA company Fender was pretty much the de facto amp maker. That would soon change.
After several failed attempts, Marshall nailed it by, as the story goes (I was not there at the time), stacking four 12” speakers in a single cabinet and driving them with a 100W amp head that sat atop the speaker cabinet. The approach was not only distinctive aurally but visible as well.
Guitarists the likes of Pete Townsend of the Who, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and others were initial adopters of these huge power plants, each creating their own unique sounds with amplifiers that would define what would be called to this day the British amp sound.
In brief summary, Jim Marshall created electronics close to 50 years ago that changed the music world permanently with variations that will continue well into the future, a feat that even outdoes the fleeting technologies from Apple and Microsoft that we dispose of on a daily basis. For some schematics of old and new Marshall amps as well as a bit of history, visit http://www.drtube.com/marshall.htm.