Jim Marshall, founder and namesake of Marshall Amplification, died Thursday morning at the age of 88 after a prolonged illness. His innovations changed both the sound and appearance of guitar amplifiers and had a profound effect on rock from the 1960s to the present day. The “Marshall stack,” two square cabinets containing four 12″ inch speakers each stacked on top of one another with the actual amplifier in a separate unit on top, became the ubiquitous symbol of loud and dangerous rock n’roll and the actual sound of Marshall amplifiers matched their imposing visage.
Like American counterpart Leo Fender, Marshall’s genius was in listening to actual performing rock guitarists and knowing how to modifying his amplifiers to suit their wants and needs. His first amps were actually based on Fender designs, but whereas the American made Fender company strove to create the clear, distortion-free sounds their surf and country playing customers preferred, the British-made Marshalls had a more aggressive, “overdriven” sound, well suited for hard rockers such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Cream. The perhaps-apocryphal story goes that it was The Who’s Pete Townshend who first pushed Marshall to make his amps bigger and louder so he could best drummer Keith Moon in the band’s infamous on-stage volume wars. After roadies complained about carrying around a mammoth cab containing eight 12″ speakers, Marshall sawed the box in half thus creating the “Full Stack.”
Marshall amps rich, mid-range, “crunchy” tone became the signature sound of hard rock and heavy metal and their ever increasing wattage enabled rock groups to take their music from small clubs to sports arenas. The list of Marshall players over the years is truly a who’s who of rock guitar greats and through all the changes in the music industry Jim Marshall was at the helm of his company, earning the nickname “The Father Of Loud.”
[Photo: Getty Images]