Rock and roll is a little quieter today, following the passing of Jim Marshall, who helped the genre turn it up to 10…and in some cases 11. Marshall, 88, founded the iconic guitar amp brand Marshall Amplification in 1962.

According to Marshall’s family, the rock pioneer died in a hospice in his native England on Thursday (April 5). “He got cancer toward the end of last year, and had surgery for that, and it came back,” his son Terry Marshall said. “He was in a terrible state the last five or six weeks.” Marshall was born James Charles Marshall on July 29, 1923 in Acton, West London.

Marshall’s passing was mourned on his official website, with a lengthy ode from the Marshall Amplification team: “Jim’s ascent into the history books as ‘the Father of Loud’ and the man responsible for ‘the Sound of Rock’ is a true rags-to-riches tale. Cruelly robbed of his youth by tubercular bones, Jim rose to become one of the four forefathers responsible for creating the tools that allowed rock guitar as we know and love it today to be born. The ground breaking quartet also includes the late, great trio of Leo Fender, Les Paul and Seth Lover [who created the electric guitar pickup known as the ‘humbucker’].

Exempted from WWII service because of his poor health, Jim found work as a singer and drummer in big bands, and expanded into drum teaching after the war (One of his students was Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience). He opened a drum shop in London in 1960, and before long branched out into selling electric guitars and amplifiers to musicians interested in this new rock and roll thing. His early guitar-playing customers (including Pete Townsend and Ritchie Blackmore) complained of the high cost of the standard amplifier of the day, imported to England from Leo Fender’s factory in Fullerton, California.  Marshall saw a market for a homegrown product and modeled his first amplifier on the Fender Bassman, but the products evolved and the line expanded as Marshall worked closely with the likes of Townsend, Clapton, Jimmy Page, and an American from Seattle,  Jimi Hendrix.

These early guitar heroes made the “Marshall Stack” the one of the most iconic pieces of gear in rock and roll.

Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap famously had special Marshalls made:

The official statement on Marshall’s site also brings light to his charitable side, for which Marshall was awarded the prestigious Order of British Empire (OBE) title. “In addition to the creation of the amps chosen by countless guitar heroes and game changing bands,” the statement continues, “Jim was also an incredibly humble and generous man who, over the past several decades, has quietly donated many millions of pounds to worthy causes.”

Guitarists such as Guns N’ Roses
Slash and former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde and bands like The Who took to Twitter to mourn Marshall’s passing.

— Slash (@Slash) April 5, 2012

GOD BLESS FATHER MARSHALL… I Thank The GOOD LORD I was Blessed To have You In My Life…

— Zakk Wylde (@ZakkWyldeBLS) April 5, 2012

–Jillian Mapes, CBS Local


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