Jim Marshall, Founder of Marshall Amps, Dead at 88

Jim Marshall, the English inventor of the famed Marshall amplifier favored by guitar-oriented rock artists, also known and the "Father of Loud", died yesterday in his Buckinghamshire home. He was 88.

Marshall started developing his amplifiers in 1960, answering the call from customers such as Pete Townsend and Ritchie Blackmore who needed a special type of amplifier for blasting their heavy rock chords. In 1962, the first Marshall amp, the Marshall JTM 45 30-watt amplifier, had a distorted sound--different from the clean sound of rival Fender amps -- and soon became a favorite of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, among other musicians.

Marshall, along with 18-year-old electronics apprentice Dudley Craven, toiled day and night to perfect the sound. After six attempts he finally created something he liked.

The first Marshall amps were very basic, a black box with a speaker inside and a few controls on the top. Marshall is credited with inventing the "amp stack" where musicians stacked his amplifiers one on top of another, creating towers that can produce tremendous sound.

Marshall's intention was to produce an amplifier with a rough, fuzzy sound to satisfy young rock musicians instead of country and jazz musicians who often used Fender amps.

He turned his invention into a highly successful business, manufacturing the majority of his amplifiers in a small factory near his home in Milton Keynes north of London.

He became a rock legend in the process, being named by the Marshall Amplification website--along with Leo Fender, Les Paul and Seth Lover--as being one of the forefathers of rock music equipment.

"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," the Marshall Amplification website said. "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 worth causes."

Several rock musicians paid tribute, including Motley Crue bass player Nikki Sixx, who said that he was responsible for some of the greatest audio moments in rock history, as well as for causing "50 percent for all our hearing loss."

Over the years, Marshall became a larger-than-life figure. He enjoyed smoking Cuban cigars and single malt Scotch whiskey.

He began developing health problems late in life, suffering several strokes before developing cancer late last year. The cancer was removed but it came back. Marshall died with his son Terry and his wife by his side.

Marshall was also a drum teacher and an avid drummer. He is survived by two children, two stepchildren, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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David Minsky is a U.S. Navy veteran and Tulane graduate who has experience reporting on stories from California, South Florida, and the Deep South. He has also won some journalism awards. Email or tweet David with story tips and ideas.
Contact: David Minsky