Marshall, Jim 1923 to 2012

This obituary was written by Adam Sweeting and printed in the Guardian on 6 April 2012 

Jim Marshall

Jim Marshall in 2000. Almost everybody who rocked over 40 years used his equipment. Photograph: Robert Knight/Redferns

When Jim Marshall, who has died aged 88 of cancer, opened a music store in 1960, his customers included some of rock’n’roll’s most prominent guitarists. They wanted a new type of amplifier. Marshall seized the opportunity and built it for them. His work would earn him the nickname the Father of Loud.

Marshall was born in Kensington, west London, to Beatrice and Jim Marshall. Jim Sr owned a fish and chip shop in Southall. Tuberculosis of the bones caused his son to be encased in a plaster cast from his ankles to his armpits during most of his school years. From the age of 13, he took a series of jobs, from builder’s merchant to shoe salesman to baker in a biscuit factory. Medically unfit for military service in the second world war, he taught himself about engineering from books, and in 1946 became a toolmaker at Heston Aircraft, where he stayed for three years.

John Entwistle in 1966.

John Entwistle in 1966. His lust for more volume led to the creation of Marshall’s classic 100-watt amplifier. Photograph: Chris Morphet/RedfernsMeanwhile, he had successfully auditioned to sing with an orchestra at a Southall dance hall, earning 10 shillings (50p) a night. He then joined a seven-piece band, and when the drummer was called up for national service, Marshall took over. His idol was the big band drummer Gene Krupa, and after taking lessons he started to teach himself at the end of the 1940s. Marshall recalled that “I taught Mitch Mitchell who joined Jimi Hendrix, Micky Burt of Chas and Dave, Mick Waller with Little Richard and Micky Underwood who played with Ritchie Blackmore.”

Marshall saved enough money to start his own business, building loudspeaker cabinets for musicians. He found an especially keen market among bass players who were fed up with being blotted out by noisy lead guitarists and were looking for some powerful amplification of their own. But after a year of this, he changed tack and opened his own music store in Hanwell, west London, initially specialising in selling drumkits. 

“Then the drummers brought their groups in, including Pete Townshend, and said why don’t you stock guitars and amplifiers, which I knew nothing about.”

Apart from Townshend, his guitar-playing customers included Blackmore, soon to find fame with Deep Purple, and the renowned session player Big Jim Sullivan. They told Marshall that they wanted amplifiers with a different sound from the then-popular Fender models, which had a clean but non-raunchy tone. Marshall teamed up with his shop repairman, Ken Bran, and the EMI technician Dudley Craven, and they produced their first amplifier in September 1962. According to Marshall, it was the sixth prototype that gave birth to the powerful and throaty “Marshall sound”.

Demand for Marshall amplifiers and matching loudspeaker cabinets steadily increased, and in 1964 the first full-scale factory opened in Hayes, with a staff of 16 making 20 amplifiers a week. The following year Marshall signed a global distribution agreement with the instrument suppliers Rose Morris, though he later felt his progress had been hampered by their uncompetitive pricing policies.

However, top musicians were clamouring for Marshall’s amplifiers and their hard-driving sound, including Eric Clapton – for whom Marshall created the “Bluesbreaker” amp-and-speakers combo – and Townshend and John Entwistle of the Who, whose lust for more volume led to the creation of Marshall’s classic 100-watt amplifier. It was at Townshend’s request that Marshall developed the stackable loudspeaker cabinets, or “stacks”, that became a familiar part of the stage scenery for countless bands. Meanwhile, Hendrix bought a package of equipment, plus technical maintenance, from Marshall.

Almost everybody who rocked over the next 40 years would use Marshall equipment, from Jeff Beck, the Small Faces and Guns N’ Roses to Pink Floyd, Elton John, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, U2, Metallica and Nirvana. In 2003 he was appointed OBE for his services to music and charity. He is survived by his children, Terry and Victoria, and his stepchildren, Paul and Dawn.

• James Charles Marshall, amplifier manufacturer, born 29 July 1923; died 5 April 2012

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Obituary for Roger Beardsley

Roger Beardsley

We have learnt of the sad passing of Roger Beardsley who was a great friend of the EMI Archives and of many of us who have worked there over the years. Roger was a passionate restorer of early recordings and also one of life’s fun people. Lunch with Roger always seemed to end around tea time and was never boring! Our thoughts go out to his family.

We have found the following information on Music Preserved website which Norman Lebrecht has added to in his Slipped Disc blog.

It is with the heaviest of hearts that we report the sudden death of Roger Beardsley on 7 April. His loss will be felt keenly wherever good music and old recordings are treasured, but our condolences go first to his family. Roger was the transfer engineer responsible for remsatering all of Music Preserved’s archive of historic recordings: a mammoth task he undertook with the love, enthusiasm and expertise that made him acknowledged worldwide as foremost in a highly specialised field. His care and expertise were second to none. Roger took a leading role in the work and growth of Music Preserved. He leaves a huge legacy of music, of living experiences that would otherwise have been lost to the ravages of time, and that may now be absorbed, studied and most of all enjoyed for as long as there are ears to listen. He also leaves a wide circle of friends who counted themselves lucky indeed to enjoy the company of a warm, witty and affable man who was never short of a good joke or a sharply observed apercu.

More from Roger’s CV:

Roger Beardsley began his professional music and recording career at BBC Radio Leeds, where he was a presenter/producer of a weekly music programme (1974-1983). He then became a freelance recording engineer, producing first LP, then CD releases for a variety of organisations including the BBC, following the basic premise that too many microphones cloud the sound. As a second-generation 78 collector, Roger felt that historical re-issues were a travesty of the originals, hence changed his focus from ‘live’ recording to audio restoration. He has produced 400+ CDs to date, covering every sphere of ‘serious’ musical endeavour recorded over the last 110 years – from Vess L. Ossman in 1895 to Kiri Te Kanawa in 2005. He has received various awards for his work, including ‘Classic Record Collector’ for Bartók Quartets (Pearl, 2003) and Kathleen Ferrier and Friends (Pearl GEM0229, 2005), and a ‘Diapason d’Or’ for Gerard Souzay (Pearl, 2002).

Roger is Director of Historic Masters Ltd, which produces limited editions (in the form of direct pressings from original metal masters) of important 78 rpm material from the EMI Archive. He is also a Trustee of Historic Singers Trust, working with the EMI Archive Trust to catalogue their holdings of historic material. So far he has identified 24,000 original metal masters (1900-early 1950s) and located over 1,000 important masters thought destroyed in Germany during World War II. He has produced ‘Fonotipia Ledgers 1904-1939’ (CD-ROM, Historic Masters, 3rd ed.), a database-format discography detailing over 10,000 recordings made by this highly important Italian company.

Roger was a member of the Academic Advisory Board of CHARM and is Technical Consultant (audio restoration) to the Music Department of Kings College London. He is also a member of the Music Preserved Council, an organisation dedicated to conserving, restoring and making available unique recordings of broadcast performances from the 1930’s onwards that would otherwise have been lost.

Jet Harris passes on

It is very sad to learn of the death of Jet Harris who was early bass guitarist with Cliff Richard and The Shadows. He’s been credited with both introducing the first electric bass guitar into the UK and with coming up with the name of The Shadows when Cliff’s band had to change their name from The Drifters because there was an American band with the same name. He left the group in 1962 citing both musical and personal differences with other members of The Shadows but went on to make some extraordinary sounding and extremely popular records including this one “Diamonds” which sat atop the UK charts for 6 weeks in 1963.

Jet lived a very rock’n’roll lifestyle and suffered well documented battles with depression and alcohol. He continued to tour and make records until recently and in 2010 was recently awarded an MBE in recognition of his services to music. Jet Harris was 71 years old.

Obituary for Peter Andry

Peter Andry, who ran EMI Classics for many years, has sadly passed away. Peter was an important EMI executive from the 1950’s to the late 1980’s who retained close links to EMI’s archives even after moving to Warner Classics and then later retiring. Our thoughts go out to Peter’s family.

The Daily Telegraph has published a full obituary which you can see here.