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Jim Marshall - The Best of British

Dr. Jim Marshall, OBE is a man comfortable in his skin. That skin may have weathered with the passing years, but the gleam in the man’s eye is still bright with enthusiasm for the craft with which his name has become synonymous - building amplifiers. Really, really good amplifiers. Amplifiers that have become the benchmark for tone, quality and sheer volume ever since the first guitarist said, “Man, I need it to be louder!”

Long before the advent of the Marshall amplifier, Jim Marshall was a singer and drummer of some repute around wartime London. He found that sitting at the back of the stage behind a drum kit was no place to hear things clearly, and set about building bigger PA cabinets so he could hear himself - a sign, perhaps, of the things to come. After the war, he found himself busy teaching, performing and eventually opening his own drum shop. As well as selling drum kits, Jim would make and sell cabinets for PA, bass and guitar, and it was not long before he realized that there was a new, rapidly growing market in the music scene - rock and roll.

His popularity as a musician and store owner kept him in touch with the rising stars of the time, such as Pete Townshend, Ritchie Blackmore, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. These young players were among the legion of guitarists who wanted something more from their amp... something that wasn’t there yet. The question was put to Jim Marshall, “Why don’t you try making us an amplifier?” - So he did. Getting together with his service technician and a young recruit with a background in making circuits, they turned out five prototype amps, each time trying to match the sound that Jim heard in his head. The sixth prototype was assembled and played - maybe by a young Pete Townshend - and Jim knew that what he heard was the sound he’d been waiting to hear. The Marshall sound. It was September 1962, and although nobody knew it at the time, the face of rock and roll had changed forever.

Today, Marshall amplifiers are shipped worldwide at the rate of around 6,500 per week. Some simple arithmetic will tell you that there would be very few amplifier manufacturers on the planet that come anywhere near that figure. The Marshall stack (or multiples thereof) is still the coolest sight on stage for millions of rock guitarists, who throughout modern music history have dreamed of plugging in to the ultimate music machine, and someday making one their own. From the original JTM45, the Marshall range has grown and developed into an extensive array of amps and cabinets that can meet any requirement from arena rock to barroom blues. The one constant factor is the sound - that sound that Jim Marshall heard back in 1962. It’s still there in every unit, because the man whose name is on the gear is still the owner of the company, and that’s the way he prefers to do business.

Graham Greene


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