The Influence of Marshall Amps
Do you know the story behind Marshall Amps?
If you’re a guitar player, that name has as much weight as Leo Fender or Orville Gibson. His name is written on shirts, hats, and of course some of our favorite amplifiers. Jim Marshall began as an average music store owner. However, due to a growing need for better and louder amplification, he started his amplifier company in 1962. Like many geniuses, Jim Marshall’s success was partly due to foresight and partly due to pure luck and necessity. Either way, Marshall was largely responsible for the development of rock and western music. Without question, Jim Marshall and his amps changed the world.
Nearly every major name in electric guitar playing has played through a Marshall amp or cab at some point. Although the list of Marshall fans is nearly endless, it all started with Pete Townshend. Supposedly, the guitarist of The Who approached Jim Marshall in need of a louder amp. Basically, the amps currently available weren’t loud enough to be heard over the adoring crowds. Perhaps the most significant change is that Jim Marshall used 12AX7 tubes. This was different from the 12AY7 tubes that were being used by Fender. Ironically, the reason is simply that Marshall couldn’t find the tubes in Britain. The new tubes, paired with Marshall’s push for more volume helped the amp break up more than many of the contemporary amps.
Marshall amps created a push for power, volume, and intensity. For many years, loudness was almost as important as musical skill. Bands began competing to see who could be the loudest. Sabbath, Zeppelin, and The Who battled through much of the seventies to see who could hold the world record for the highest volume level in a performance. Obviously this same inspiration continues today. A quick search of the Marshall website shows contemporary groups using Marshall amps today. This list includes bands like Dropkick Murphys, Mastodon, Rise Against, and John 5. To this day, Marshall amps are synonymous with distortion. In fact, many boutique makers continue to model their designs off of Marshall’s most famous designs.
Jim Marshall never had a successful music career. However, he has been more influential on the development of western music than any of the musicians of his time. Through technological advancements, Jim Marshall created the tools that would be responsible for the development of rock, punk, metal, and more. He created a drive for more power and volume. His amplifiers gave guitarists more potential than they could have ever imagined. These amplifiers inspired creativity in musicians like Jimi Hendrix. Where the musicians of his time inspired future generations, Jim Marshall inspired entire genres. His innovations instilled energy and power into music. Some people say that Jim Marshall changed rock music. That isn’t true. He helped create it.