The world of rock and roll lost one of its loudest pioneers on Thursday, April 5, 2012, when Jim Marshall died at the age of 88.
Born in 1923 in West London, Dr. Jim Marshall, OBE, led his namesake amplifier company for the past 50 years, quite literally channeling the sound of rock and roll guitar. Dubbed "the Father of Loud," Marshall holds a singular place in the pantheon of innovators who developed the instruments and tools that provided the earliest rock and roll players the mechanisms needed to shape a once nascent genre. Along with Leo Fender, Seth Lover and Les Paul, Marshall was among the great patriarchs of the rock and roll sound we've grown to appreciate, cheer, love, emulate and worship.
Marshall used earnings from his days as a drum instructor to open a music shop in the early 1960s, where, as the story goes, his customers included such seminal guitarists as the Who's Pete Townshend. He and other budding guitarists in London would plant the seed of an idea for a guitar amplifier that undercut its American counterparts in price and delivered a signature tone not found in the market.
Whereas rival Fender amps of the era – to wit, the Bassman heavily favored by many musicians as the de facto source of guitar amplification – produced a clean tone that lent itself to jazz, country and western, and other similarly styled genres, a growing number of rock musicians (and Marshall himself) wanted something grittier, more distorted and – arguably, most important – loud.
He and sound engineers developed an early incarnation of the Marshall amp in 1960, producing the "raw" and "fuzzy" crunch he was looking for. Soon, no respecting guitarist – from Townshend to Jimi Hendrix, from Eric Clapton to Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, from Black Sabbath's Toni Iommi to AC/DC's Angus Young – graced a rock and roll stage without backing by Marshall. Stacks of amplifiers with white Marshall script quickly became part of rock's historic iconography, and the sounds guitarists produced using them became legendary.
On his Facebook and Twitter account, former Guns N' Roses guitarist, longtime Marshall user and 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Slash noted: "The news of Jim Marshall passing is deeply saddening. R & R will never be the same w/out him. But, his amps will live on FOREVER!"