Marshall Amplification is nearly 50 Years Old!
Marshall Amplification is one of the most iconic brands in the world of popular music. Providing the backdrop to countless stages across the World, the Marshall cabinet is almost as much a part of rock ‘n’ roll’s rich history as the Fender Telecaster or Gibson Les Paul. The legend that is Marshall Amplification is 50 years old! Like everything in rock ‘n’ roll, there’s a great story behind the brand. So, where did it all begin?
Jim Marshall: Drummer (!) and Music Shop Owner
The story of Marshall Amplification begins in 1962 in Hanwell in London. A drummer named Jim Marshall opened a small music shop, selling drums and drum equipment, and providing drum lessons. After pressure from the store’s clientele, who included Pete Townsend and Richie Blackmore, Jim began selling guitars and amps. The popular amps of the time were American built units, but as a result of being imported, the amps often carried a prohibitively expensive price tag. Marshall had experience of electronics, and reasoned that he should be able to produce a cheaper alternative himself.
With the help of his technicians Dudley Craven and Ken Bran, and after five prototypes, Marshall Amplification was born. The prototypes had been built around a 4 x 12” speaker configuration, employing the now ubiquitous Celestion speakers. Unlike many amplifiers of the time, the first Marshall amp was not a combo, separating the speakers and cabinet. In addition, the cabinet was a closed back design. One of the key aspects of the amplifier’s design was the high gain pre-amp circuit, which caused the amp to overdrive at a far lower level than its contemporaries. The amp was named the Marshall JTM45, and was the start of big (and loud) things…
The early days of Marshall Amplification were in the 1960s, a time where musicians were experimenting more than ever before. Jim Marshall was trying to reduce production costs further, and switched the 6L6 valves commonly favoured by US amp companies to the KT66, resulting in an edgier, more aggressive sound. Among the early fans of this sound was a young Eric Clapton. This connection resulted in one of Marshall ‘s most sought after amplifiers, following a request from Clapton: a combo with built in tremolo known as the Marshall Bluesbreaker. Another early Marshall adopter was Pete Townsend, who famously asked Jim to produce an amplifier louder than anything currently available. The result was the 100-watt Super Lead 1959 and 8 x 12” cabinet. This model (known as the Plexi) was also used by none other than James Marshall Hendricks (Jimi Hendrix to you and me), who became a huge fan of the amp when trying it at Jim ‘s store.
Reputation of Marshall Amps grew exponentially from those early seeds. They have been the brand of amplifier that generation after generation of guitarists have aspired to play. Often spotted behind the most renowned and influential guitarists (not least of which, Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses), the longevity of the Marshall brand has been in no small part due to their ability to respond to guitarists’ needs. So, ladies and gentlemen, raise your glasses to Marshall Amplification. Here’s to another 50 years!