St. Peter Needs Earplugs: RIP, Amp Guru Jim Marshall

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Photo: Reuters

Marshall Amplification posted an announcement on its website this morning that its founder, Dr. Jim Marshall has passed away at age 88.

The story of the Marshall name as we now know it began in the 1960s, as he was teaching drums (among his students: Jimi Hendrix’s future drummer Mitch Mitchell) out of his drum shop in England. As louder, amplified sounds began to catch on, many of his customers asked him to carry guitar amps. And the most iconic amp of the time was the Fender Bassman. As those were tough to find in London in those days, the entrepreneurial Marshall set out to make his own version of the Bassman.

Within a few years, nearly everyone in rock was standing in front of 100-watt Marshall stacks. Hendrix. Page. Townshend. Cream-era Clapton. The first selling point of the amps was the sheer volume they could produce. In a time of inadequate house PA systems in most venues, you could set up a wall of Marshalls that could be heard clearly in the back row (and destroy your hearing in the process–just ask Townshend). But then there was the tone–that Marshall “crunch,” sometimes called the “brown sound” that came to define British rock and, in the 1970s, the American hard rock of bands like Van Halen.

By then, only a little more than a decade after the company’s founding, Marshall had already taken its place beside Fender and Gibson as one of the iconic brands of rock gear.

Says the company on its site: “We all feel richer for having known him and are happy in the knowledge that he is now in a much better place which has just got a whole lot louder!”

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