Jim Marshall – Creator of the Famous Marshall Sound

Jim Marshall is a quiet, unassuming chap from England. Being so makes it hard to believe that he contributed to the intense assault on rock and roll lovers’ ears with the invention of "The Stack". Mr. Marshall is a warm and charming legend of a man.

{mosimage} Jim Marshall created the now famous "Marshall sound" in 1962 after Peter Townshend, Brian Poole and Jim Sullivan complained that the Fender sound was "too clean".

Mr. Marshall is a singer, as well as a drummer, so with a great ear for pitch and tone he developed five prototype amps before settling on number six as "the Marshall sound".

In 1965, Britain was reveling in the hysteria of the "Beat Boom", America was succumbing to the "British Invasion", and Pete Townshend needed a bigger amp.

The bigger 100 watt amp meant a bigger box and roadies complained, so Marshall built two separate cabinets stacked on top of each other – now known as "The Stack".

By the late 1960’s, virtually every known group from England was using Marshall amps. Roy Orbison, on his British tour, used Marshall amps and brought them back to America with him. The Who, Cream, and above all, Jimi Hendrix contributed the most to the six-fold increase in demand for Marshall amps in the 60’s. Pink Floyd, The Move, Deep Purple, Elton John, and Eric Clapton also favor Marshall amps.

Forty years and 87 countries later, with two "Queen’s Awards of Export", Marshall is still expanding and developing new products. In a twist of irony, Marshall has also been contracted to build a reissue of the Vox AC30 by restoring it to its original sound.

Bandradio: What are your future plans for Marshall products?

Jim Marshall: "Over the next five years we will expand; I’ve just bought another factory. I would say that all we will endeavor to do is to try and improve on what we have done in the past, and I don’t mean purely on the money angle. You can’t take it with you, you can only live in one house and drive one car at a time. It’s the name that means something to me – because it is my name".

BR: What is your opinion about modeling amps?

JM: "They are very good. You need something for everyone. Modeling amps are suited for musicians starting out – "bedroom musicians". Modeling amps don’t sound "true". Professional musicians want a "true" sound for their music."

BR: How did you choose the original sound you decided upon?

JM: "Pete Townshend wanted a unique sound – different from the Fender. He explained what he wanted and I worked with our engineer, Dudley Craven, to develop different prototypes. It took six tries, and the sixth one was the one we were aiming for. It was very new. Very different."

BR: Do you have an unusual story about artists that you worked with?

JM: "Well, I remember that Jimi Hendrix was keen to meet me because his name was James Marshall Hendrix and it gave him a kick to think that I was James Marshall as well. Jimi said that he wanted to use Marshall gear and that he was going to be one of the top people in the world at this type of music. I thought he was just another musician trying to get something for nothing, but in the next breath he said he wanted to pay for everything he got. I thought he was a great character. I got on very well with him and he was our great ambassador."

BR: Do you still play drums?

JM: "Yes, and I sing. I play for the Water Rats. It is the biggest charity and you must be invited to belong and must be a top entertainer. Bob Hope and Howard Keel are Water Rats."

"My wife, Pauline, recently convinced me to take my first vacation since the 1940’s. We spent six days in Italy. At the hotel where we stayed, someone asked me to sing with the pianist – so I did. The hotel manager heard me and later came up to me and asked me if I had paid for my drinks. I said, no, they are on the tab and the manager told me I had free drinks for as long as I stayed at the hotel. So even recently, I was performing for money – about 60 pounds a night for drinks!"

BR: How do you feel about the impact you’ve had on the music world?

JM: "I can’t believe it. I was poor and had no education. I worked 48 hours a week, filled milk bottles at 4 in the morning, sang in a band at night, and volunteered on Sundays. It is quite unbelievable."

BR: What advice or words of wisdom do you have for new musicians?

JM: "1. Be clear about what you want to do. Know which instrument you want to play."

"2. Study music. If you are a sight reader, you can pick up new music quicker. You can practice on your own to prepare."

"3. Find a mentor. Go to a working musician. Someone really good."

BR: Not bad advice from a guy who was poor, in and out of hospitals until the age of 13, had a total of eight weeks of formal education, taught the drummers who played for Jimi Hendrix and Little Richard, became a legend in his time, and has his hand prints on the "Rock Walk Hall of Fame" in Hollywood.

Author: Mike Stahl

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