News isn’t normally the Pick Roar thing. But to wake up and learn that Jim Marshall has died today, aged 88, seems so relevant to the tone-chasing and larger guitar world that it could not go by without comment.
The official website, currently overwhelmed with traffic, posted this statement:
“It is with profound sorrow that we announce the passing of our beloved founder and leader for the past 50 years, Jim Marshall. While mourning the Guv’nor though, we also salute a legendary man who led a full and truly remarkable life.
“Jim’s ascent into the history books as ‘the Father of Loud’ and the man responsible for ‘the Sound of Rock’ is a true rags-to-riches tale. Cruelly robbed of his youth by tubercular bones, Jim rose to become one of the four forefathers responsible for creating the tools that allowed rock guitar as we know and love it today to be born. The groundbreaking quartet also includes the late, great trio of Leo Fender, Les Paul and Seth Lover – together with Jim, they truly are the cornerstones of all things rock.
“In addition to the creation of the amps chosen by countless guitar heroes and game-changing bands, Jim was also an incredibly humble and generous man who, over the past several decades, has quietly donated many millions of pounds to worthy causes.
“While the entire Marshall Amplification family mourns Jim’s passing and will miss him tremendously, 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!
“Rest in Peace & thank you Jim.
“Your memory; the music and joy your amps have brought to countless millions for the past five decades; and that world-famous, omnipresent script logo that proudly bears your name will always live on.”
My Marshall Story
I got my first Marshall, a Christmas gift, when I was 15. It was a Valvestate 8240, a rich sounding 2×12 combo with built-in stereo chorus and, in comparison to earlier Marshalls, more than enough thick, chunky gain for a kid raised on the roar of modded amps, like the infamous SIR #36 used by Slash on Appetite For Destruction, or overdriven non-master-volume building topplers, like Malmsteen’s beloved MKII stacks, recorded at 10.
My 8240 had an ingenious Contour knob that I wish had caught on in guitar amp design. The control shifted the focus of the midrange in a musical and effective way, opening up tones from vacuumed out low-mid chug to searing vintage honk, with a smooth sweep through everything in between, so you could always find what you were looking for.
The amp saw me through my first shows and well into adulthood; it was still going strong when I gave it to my brother, unable to take it with me to a new life in America. When I’ve been back years later and played it at his house, it’s surprised me with its warm, chunky tone all over again.
I’m still transfixed by the sear and sizzle I heard on those classic albums as a kid. Though it might have been a while since a stock Marshall knocked your socks off, the boutique boxes we chase today — Splawn, Fortin, Friedman, Cameron, Bray et al — have their roots, sonically and technically, in Marshall design. Thanks, Jim.
What’s your Marshall story?