Jim Marshall, the “father of loud” whose signature line of amplifiers became all but synonymous with power and presence in rock and roll, died on Thursday in hospice care. He was 88.
Marshall had cancer and endured a series of strokes, including several that were severe, his son, Terry Marshall, said.
“My wife and I were with him when he passed away,” his son said. ”He got cancer toward the end of last year, and had surgery for that, and it came back. He was in a terrible state the last five or six weeks. He’s in a much better place now.”
Marshall was born in 1923 in West London, and underwent a difficult childhood in which he suffered from tubercular bones. Working as an electrical engineer during World War II, he later began playing drums and eventually became a teacher, with pupils including future Jimi Hendrix Experience sticksman Mitch Mitchell. Marshall opened a drum shop in the Hanwell area of London in 1960, and at the request of customer Pete Townshend, soon began offering guitar equipment as well.
Joined by engineer-musician Ken Braun and engineering apprentice Dudley Craven, Marshall began experimenting with his first homemade amplifiers, using the Fender Bassman as a model while increasing the sound’s roughness and bombast. His first satisfactory prototype was dubbed the Marshall JTM 45, which he sold out of his shop.
Marshall expanded the shop to increase production in 1963, then opened a small factory in 1964, producing around 20 amplifiers per week. He then signed a worldwide distribution deal with Rose-Morris in 1965. With the Who, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton becoming some of the young company’s most devoted clients, and spreading the word abroad as the British Invasion took off, the company continued to grow.
Marshall worked closely with many of his more famous customers, creating Clapton’s signature “Bluesbreaker” amp and training Hendrix’s road crew on proper care and maintenance of the equipment. In fact, it was through working with Townshend that Marshall originated the “Marshall stack” setup — with an amp head balanced atop two speaker cabinets — which became an iconic presence on rock stages for decades thereafter, often pushed to extreme lengths by hard rock and metal bands who would assemble walls of Marshall equipment behind them. In its early days, Sunset Strip metallers Motley Crue even took to lining up empty Marshall cabinets as onstage props.
In 2003, Marshall was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for his successful export of British-made goods and his various charitable deeds.
He is survived by two children, two stepchildren and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.