R.I.P. Jim Marshall, creator of the Marshall amp

R.I.P. Jim Marshall, creator of the Marshall amp

The Associated Press has reported the death of Jim Marshall, long lauded as one of the behind-the-scenes giants of rock ’n’ roll (alongside Leo Fender, Les Paul, and Seth Lover) for his creation of the Marshall amplifier—the loud, raunchy amp that continues to give generations of bands their power. Marshall suffered from serious health problems in his later years, though it didn’t slow his pursuit of good times or prevent him from attending concerts by the bands who wielded his mighty invention. In the end, however, he was felled by cancer and a series of strokes, and died at the age of 88.

Before “The Marshall,” live music was mostly dominated by the clean sounds of amps like the Fender, which didn’t pack the sort of skuzzy punch Marshall was looking for. An electrical engineer by day and musician by night, Marshall created what would become the Marshall amp while working out of his own music store in London, where customers like Ritchie Blackmore and Pete Townshend would tell him of their desire for a guitar amplifier with extra-loud volume. By 1962, Marshall had created the first genuine Marshall amp and “the Marshall sound”—a thick, solid roar that was soon adopted by other artists like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, and led to Marshall being dubbed “The Father Of Loud.” 

Marshall’s legacy is cemented in the sounds of those legends, who were often photographed in front of their huge amplifiers bearing Marshall’s name (and in Townshend’s case, smashing those amplifiers). And it's there in every band searching for maximum “this one goes to 11” volume since, to the point where a reference to the “Marshall half-stack” is as common and evocative a descriptor in music reviews as any.  The Marshall Amplification company has vowed via a statement on its website that that founder’s legacy—embodied in the “world-famous, omnipresent script logo that proudly bears your name”—“will always live on.”

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