The History of Marshall

Coming soon – The History of Marshall: The First Fifty Years, by Michael Doyle and Nick Bowcott. Below is the two-part preface to the book. Enjoy!

So we meet again, twenty years since my last Marshall book, The History of Marshall, was published (1993) and over thirty years since my first, The Sound of Rock (1982). I never dreamed that a book or a company would have such a profound effect on my life that I would be asked to write about it decades later. Such is the power of Marshall.

In 1982, The Sound of Rock was just about the first book ever written on guitar amplifiers – and I was really concerned that I would be writing somewhat selfishly for an audience of one. It was researched in a couple of months, written by hand, typed on a typewriter by my sister, and photographed in black and white with a borrowed (manual-focus) film camera. I recall that the sharp photos were taken in the morning when I was sober, while those that were out of focus where taken in the afternoon after Jim, Ken, and I had enjoyed a few bottles of wine with lunch. Happy days and simpler times!

Back then, information on old amplifiers was extremely rare, and others who shared my enthusiasm for them even rarer. In the decade that followed, new interest was fired up, and vintage Marshalls became well established as part of many guitarists’ armory and many collector’s closets. The advent of the personal computer allowed me to cover a broader picture of the Marshall history than was previously possible, and I was safe in the knowledge that I would be writing for the benefit of an audience other than myself. And so it was that The History of Marshall was published in 1993. I wanted that book to be definitive, and thankfully it was widely received as such – enabling it to survive in print during the biggest revolution of all, the Internet age. Facilitated by digital photography, the web has redefined our access to information, and Marshall’s history is no exception.

However, guitarists are tactile people, and if they can feel the difference in a thousandth of an inch on a string gauge, then presumably they still appreciate the printed word. So we fittingly celebrate the first fifty years of Marshall with that most analog creation – a book.

When I was approached to author The First Fifty Years, I knew my memory was fading, and that fact, combined with my less than expert knowledge of most Marshalls made since 1995, made a co-author a necessity. Enter fellow Marshall nutter, “Grim Reaper” guitarist, and talented writer Nick Bowcott. Without Nick’s involvement, persuasion, and deep Marshall tribal knowledge, this book would never have happened.

My goal this time was to simply produce a book that would put a smile on Jim’s face. Regrettably, that didn’t happen. Jim was ill for many years and passed away in April 2012, aged eighty-eight, during Marshall Amplification’s fiftieth-anniversary year.

With his creation of the Marshall stack, Jim Marshall provided the tools that defined the look, as well as the sound, of rock for generations of guitarists. Inventor, leader, drummer, tap dancer, singer, and music-industry ambassador who contributed generously to many charities close to his heart, Jim Marshall ultimately lived life his way – loud and proud. Personally, he was an inspiration, friend, and mentor. The profound impact he made will live on in the music of the last fifty years and undoubtedly will set the tone for decades to come.

I look forward to hearing and reading about it.


In late 1991, I was both flattered and honored to be asked to demonstrate the then brand-new Marshall JMP-1 Valve MIKI Preamp at the 1992 Winter NAMM show. So, I got together with Andrew Lubman, a sequencing expert from the then USA distributor of Marshall, KORG USA, and we came up with a backing track that seamlessly segued over sixty modern and classic rock riffs while sending the desired program changes to the JMP-1 at the appropriate times. I guess we did a good job, as my NAMM gig quickly turned into a full-time job as USA product specialist/demonstrator for the company.

To say this job was a badge of honor for me would be a gross understatement, as Marshall had always been the “be all and end all” amp for hard rock, as far as I was concerned. From AC/DC to ZZ Top, Accept to Zakk Wylde, the Deftones to Def Leppard, and Slash to Slayer, the Marshall was not only omnipresent sonically but invariably visually as well, especially with acts like Slayer, AC/DC, and Zakk Wylde, who always have a veritable wall of Marshall stacks behind them onstage. Hell, Eddie Van Halen recorded “Eruption” – a game- and life-changing burst of guitar genius using a Marshall. I rest my case. In fact, I was such a Marshall head (awful pun, not intended!) that I didn’t consider myself a serious player until I finally owned a Marshall half stack – a 50-watt JCM800 2204 head and a 1960A 4×12 cabinet, both of which I still have to this very day.

To be a legit product specialist, I didn’t only have to be knowledgeable of the Marshall offerings at the time, I also had to get intimately acquainted with past products and the company’s illustrious history. My then boss, the one and only Ritchie Fleigler (author of the excellent Hal Leonard book Amps: The Other Half of Rock ‘n’ Roll), got me up to speed on the existing product lineup and then thrust a book in my hand and said, “Read and digest this.” The tome in question? The Sound of Rock, written by Mike Doyle in the early 1980s, and it proved a godsend…my bible, if you will. Also, as luck would have it, at the time Michael worked for KORG as the Californian sales rep for Marshall. We became good friends, and I was fortunate enough to travel with the man on several occasions. It goes without saying that I took every opportunity to pick his Marshall-addled brain. Thanks for that, Mike…please don’t ever change!

Then, in 1993, Michael’s next Hal Leonard book, The History of Marshall: The Illustrated Story of “The Sound of Rock,” was released and instantly became both my new bible and an invaluable reference tool, lofty positions it has held every since. Shortly thereafter, Michael moved to Fender (as did Ritchie), but we remained in touch over the years, and while he flourished at Fender (as did Ritchie), his passion for Marshall and the man behind the brand, Jim, never wavered even for a split second. Oh, yeah, when Ritchie left for pastures afresh, I successfully bagged his job as U.S. product manager for Marshall. Another badge of honor, which afforded me countless hours in the company of the legendary Jim Marshall himself! And I was getting paid while doing so: best gig on the planet. Period.

We now fast forward to the mid-2000s – with Marshall’s fiftieth-anniversary looming on the horizon, myself and Michael had long been talking about updating The History of Marshall together, and, as luck would have it, John Cerullo (a modern-day Job!) of Hal Leonard was also game to revisit the project. So around 2007 we set about doing exactly that. To say this was a privilege for me would, once again, be a vast understatement – to play a small role in updating the book I’ve long heralded as being “the Marshall fan’s bible” was effectively a dream come true. Now, at this point of the proceedings I know what you’re probably thinking: “Isn’t a guy who’s spent the better part of two decades working for Marshall going to be more than a little biased?” Well, here’s the rub. Shortly after taking on the book, I – like Michael and Ritchie before me – headed west and joined Fender!

One of the conditions of my taking this new job, though, was that I could continue working on the Marshall book with Michael (no longer at Fender by this time, he’d been with Guitar Center for quite a while). The fine folk at Fender agreed, and it was while I was there that the vast majority of my contribution was outlined and fleshed out. I am also delighted to report that despite my moving on, my much-valued relationship with Jim Marshall remained intact and I was only too happy to continue attending his birthday bash every year.

After a great three-year spell at Fender, where I worked with the wonderful Jackson, Charvel, and EVH lines, Marshall and KORG parted ways and the Brits asked me to come back and help set up Marshall USA. I accepted and so was able to be back with Jim as the fiftieth-anniversary of his company became a reality. Sadly, while Jim lived into the early part of 2012, ill health prevailed, and he left us to make heaven a louder place several months before the much-heralded Marshal 50th Anniversary Concert at Wemberly Arena. So, it was with heavy heart that the last couple of chapters of this book were written and the intro reworked…

It is safe to say that penning this tome was a labor of love for both myself and Michael…and sheer torture for John! It took longer than expected to get it to where we were truly happy – far longer. It also proved far, far harder than I could have ever imagined, and this is not my first ride into the book writing rodeo. I sincerely hope that our efforts give you the pleasure and insight that both of Michael’s previous books have given me.

This one’s for you, Jim…RIP, my friend, and thank you.


The History of Marshall – The First Fifty Years

From its humble origins in the back of a small music store in London, Marshall Amplification has defined the sound of rock for generations of guitarists around the world.

The History of Marshall: The First Fifty Years tells the story of Jim Marshall’s remarkable life and documents the many innovations of Marshall amplifiers, from the famous “stack” to the most current offerings. The book features:

• Hundreds of color photographs throughout, including rare amplifiers and previously unpublished historical documents

• Reprints of vintage catalogs and marketing materials from Marshall and its related brands, including Park and CMI

• Extensive appraisal and history of the Celestion speaker

• History of the Marshall factory locations and the pictorial “factory tour”

The book is also:

• Predominantly full color (similar books are typically – sometimes exclusively – black and white) and includes more historical material than any previous publication

• The first publication to bring the history of the company and its products up to date

The History of Marshall: The First Fifty Years is the definitive account of this fascinating company known as “The Sound of Rock.” It’s absolutely essential reading for musicians, technicians, and collectors alike.



Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, the trade book division of Hal Leonard Corporations, publishes books on the performing arts under the imprints Hal Leonard Books, Backbeat Books, Amadeus Press, and Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

Posted on November 20, 2013, in Music Fans, Music Industry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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