AT a time when other youngsters were spending their formative years being schooled, one little boy was a long-time patient of London’s Royal National Orthopedic Hospital.
From the age of five, and for seven years, his lower body was in plaster cast as he fought the effects of tubercular bones.
But his unfortunate start in life made Jim Marshall a fighter.
Later, at his father’s insistence, Jim took tap-dancing lessons to strengthen his legs.
During this time, aged 14, Jim’s vocal abilities were discovered and he hit the circuit performing with orchestras five or six times a week.
Singing turned to drumming, and he began teaching the instrument before opening a music shop in London, which stocked drums as its premier line.
His store was doing a tidy business, and youngsters including Pete Townsend and Richie Blackmore asked him to expand and stock guitars and amplifiers, promising to make his store their first port of call for equipment.
Jim obliged, and the new lines shifted successfully.
“Then the same people came back in and said the amplifiers aren’t built for our type of music,” recalled Jim, speaking to the Citizen in 2003.
“They asked: ‘Will you have a go at it?’”
The seeds of Marshall Amplification were sown, and the rest is rock ‘n’ roll history.
Jim’s influence on music is impossible to measure. Suffice to say that without the Marshall, the industry would sound a whole load less powerful.
From the start, Marshalls was the amp of choice for rock’s finest players.
Jimi Hendrix was one of the first big ambassadors, but decade after another rock music’s big guns were proud to endorse the Marshall style.
Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Gary Moore, Zakk Wylde and Slash have all played the Marshall way.
Jim moved his musical empire to Bletchley in the late 1960s.
In 1984, he received the Queen’s Award for Export, in 2003 he received an OBE for Services to the Music Industry and to Charity, and in 2009 he received the Freedom of the Borough of Milton Keynes.
There are few people in the area who, directly or indirectly, won’t have felt the benefit of Jim’s kindly nature – his support of charities and community groups is numerous.
He contributed £750,000 to Macmillan Cancer Relief, which enabled the opening of the Macmillan Haematology and Oncology Unit at MK Hospital, made significant donations to The Stables Theatre at Wavendon, gave £250,000 to the Woburn Centre for Conservation and Education, and was also the main sponsor of the MK Dons and the MK Lions basketball team.
Jim was also a member of the exclusive charitable organisation, Grand Order of Water Rats.
A noted workaholic, he had taken a back seat from the company in recent years, but never retired. Remarkably, when he was 80 years old, Jim was still working 10 hour days in the office at the business he founded.
And how did the man who helped power rock ‘n’ roll spend what little spare time he had?
He used to make bird boxes for his friends.
Somewhere, feathered-types will be benefiting from Jim’s craftsmanship, nesting in the best boxes around!
Today, Marshall is a global business, boasting a distributor in every major country in the world, and a workforce of 160 people at its Bletchley headquarters.
Poignantly, Willen Hospice, where he passed away peacefully, aged 88, had also benefited from his generosity thanks to a £250,000 donation.
“Not only did he create the loudest, most effective, brilliant-sounding rock ‘n’ roll amplifier ever designed, but he was a caring, hardworking family man who remained true to his integrity to the very end,” guitar legend Slash said in a statement issued last week.
“His work ethic was unequalled and his passion unrivalled.
“This industry will likely never see the likes of Jim again. But his legacy will live on forever.”
Jim’s career was the stuff that dreams are made of, but his success wasn’t fluke – it was down to honest hard work, and an absolute passion for his product.
“The 50th Anniversary of Marshall this year will now be a celebration of Jim’s remarkable life,” Jon Ellery, managing director of Marshall Amplification promised.
Despite all his success, Jim never forgot those that supported him through those difficult early years either – and donated a generous £900,000 to the hospital that cared for him.
That single act, one among countless others, suitably sums up the legend widely referred to as The Father of Loud: a man who changed the very face of music, but never forgot where he came from.