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

The tenor Edward Lloyd (1845–1927)

By Tony Locantro

 

The tenor Edward Lloyd (1845–1927) had a distinguished career for some 30 years as a leading oratorio and concert singer and was considered by some to be the foremost tenor exponent of that genre during the last quarter of the 19th century. He retired in December 1900, a few months after singing the lead in the disastrous premier of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in Birmingham, at which the chorus and orchestra were under-rehearsed and Lloyd himself was not in good voice. But the Gramophone Company coaxed him into the recording studio in 1904 and eventually made some 34 titles up to 1908, and one more in 1911 after he emerged from retirement to sing at the coronation of King George V.

 

In February 1907 he ceremonially cut the first sod at the site of the factory of The Gramophone Company at Hayes, Middlesex.  

Thank you to our friends at the EMI Archive Trust in providing these fine images.

HIS MASTER’S GRAMOPHONE, part 5

Today we publish the fifth and final in our series of extracts from this fine new book, with kind permission from its creators Christopher Proudfoot and Brian Oakley.

While the gramophone horn was a wonderful piece of design and construction and served its purpose well during the early years, when it came to portability it was pretty cumbersome. As one of the key marketing points of this invention was the ability to take it on picnics, to parties, and indeed to the First World War trenches, and even to the Antarctic with Captain Scott, sooner or later the Gramophone Company scientists would come up with a hornless model, if you’ll pardon the phrase!

This is the probably politically incorrectly named Pigmy Grand.

It has to be confessed that this machine was created in April 1909 to compete with portable machines coming into Britain from Europe, and despite the scorn poured on it by Eldridge Johnson, designer of the first gramophones to be brought to England from American by William Barry Owen, who pronounced it ‘a bum outfit’, it ended its life selling nearly 2,500 by September 1911.

This is the single spring model, made of satinwood with the internal horn behind the trendy treble and bass clef brass grill.

It sold for £5.10s (£5.50) or £7 with carrying case – the first truly portable record player!

If your interested in purchasing this fine edition please contact Brian Oakley at brian.e.oakley@btinternet.com     The cost of the book is £45.00 plus postage/packing quoted on request once country of destination known.

Paul Robeson sharing his latest hit with Nipper’s friend….

By Tony Locantro

Robeson began his recording career in July 1925 with RCA Victor in Camden. When he moved to London after playing in Show Boat at Drury Lane in 1928 he recorded extensively for HMV (actually The Gramophone Company) up to World War II. He made only the one side for British Columbia: ‘Ol’ Man River’ on 15 May 1928 as part of a series of Show Boat original cast recordings, but was legally prohibited from it being released at the time because it broke his contractual exclusivity with Victor for the recording of the same song that he had made on 1 March 1928 in New York. He later re-recorded ‘Ol’ Man River’ for HMV with Ray Noble on 12 September 1930 when the label exclusivity had expired. The original Columbia recording was not released until many years later.

HIS MASTER’S GRAMOPHONE, part 4

From functional to luxury. Within a short 3-4 years the Gramophone became the status symbol of the age, so inevitably the designers determined to take advantage of the privileged market by creating machines that were not only wonderful pieces of furniture, but also hid the rather cumbersome horn.

Enter the Sheraton Grand, the first enclosed horn gramophone. Designed to resemble a piece of 18th century furniture, only the wind handle gave it away as not being a classy cabinet, and that could presumably be removed when not in nuse. It quickly caught on with the discerning customer, over 300 having sold within the first five years of its 1906 launch. This machine was designed as a feature of any sitting or drawing room, the back panels being of the same high finish as the other three.

The ‘drawers’ were dummies, the front opening with four separate doors to reveal luxury storage space for the discs.

Made in mahogany, crossbanded in tulip or satinwood with a flat lid on coved front and side it stood nearly four feet tall, and two feet wide and deep. The open doors also revealed the internal horn, created from four tapered panels suspended below the tone arm.

Retail price £52.10s (£52.50)

Anyone Who Had A Heart…..

Watch our friends from the Vinyl Factory in Hayes press a special limited edition record of Cilla Black’s Anyone Who Had A Heart on “The One Show” Friday 16th March

Cilla Black and Paul McGann join Chris Evans and Alex Jones on the One Show sofa.

HIS MASTER’S GRAMOPHONE, part 3

As interest in the gramophone increased, so did the ingenuity of the Gramophone Company’s technicians. Outside the limits of most people’s finances, these machines were still largely owned by the wealthy, so how to bring all this wonderful recorded music to the mass public?

 

 

The early machines and discs were incapable of filling large spaces – the only variable was the size of the horn and even that made little different to its range. The first attempt to tackle this chal lenge was the Triplephone, effectively three gramophones playing the same recording to give three times the volume (though how they managed to have each machine start at exactly the same time is now explained!)

There is one extraordinary illustration of a Crystal Palace  concert in 1904,  which featured six players, each with three horns – what on earth did that sound like?

So, in the interim, the amplifying horn was considered the best way forward, so step forward our faithful Monarch, suitably dressed for the occasion!

Here, the original base sits on a large ebonised pedestal with green moulded panels, suitably weighted with sand or some other heavy material to keep it upright. The wonderful ironwork arm is a reconstruction as virtually no original examples exist and holds a 48” horn.

Sadly, for all the effort that went into its construction, it failed to catch on. Introduced in 1903-4, The Gramophone Company’s London sales office had to report that it was ‘unable to dispose of’ the 22 in stock!

HIS MASTER’S GRAMOPHONE, part 2

With kind permission of its creators Christopher Proudfoot and Brian Oakley we continue our series of extracts  from “His Master’s Gramophone”  …

Introducing the Single Spring Monarch Style No.11 In production from 1901-1905, this machine was specially designed to play the newly introduced 10” Concert recordings issued in 1901.

Costing £10 in 1901, the price was drastically reduced to £7.10s (£7.50) a year later, the design was classy, with a wide stepped plinth and baluster corner column. The machine is driven by a single-spring, hence its title, with a bevel drive and vertical governor. The 22” brass witch’s hat horn used a wooden tracking arm.