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'Something Bigger And Louder': The Legacy Of Jim Marshall And His Amp

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'Something Bigger And Louder': The Legacy Of Jim Marshall And His Amp

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'Something Bigger And Louder': The Legacy Of Jim Marshall And His Amp

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Finally this hour, the man known as the Father of Loud died this morning in Britain. Jim Marshall was the man behind the Marshall amp, the guitar amplifier that helped shape the sound of rock 'n' roll and channel the anger of a generation.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

After World War II, Marshall learned to play drums, and he opened a music shop. Aspiring musicians of all kinds, including guitarists, began hanging out and inspired him to create the Marshall amp. They wanted it to be affordable, more accessible, more aggressive than the American-made Fender.

CORNISH: In a 1993 interview with WHYY's FRESH AIR, Marshall's regular customer Pete Townsend of The Who remembered how it all began.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

PETE TOWNSEND: I realized at that moment what was actually happening was that I was demanding a more powerful machine gun, and Jim Marshall was going to build it for me. And then we were going to go out and blow people away all around the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: Legend has it that Townsend was the first to play with the prototype amp when it was being designed. Here's Nick Bowcott of Marshall Amplifiers.

NICK BOWCOTT: They all basically heard three chords and went that's it. That's the Marshall sound.

CORNISH: In 1962, they began selling the amps in Marshall's shop. And soon, they stood behind nearly every great rock guitarist you can think of, from the 1960s and '70s - Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Pete Townsend, as well as some from the next generation - Yngwie Malmsteen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: Malmsteen is famous for his playing, as well as for the wall of Marshall amps he uses on stage.

YNGWIE MALMSTEEN: Here's the thing with the Marshall. I mean, it is - even - no matter what you do with it, you know, it's magical, you know? It was magical.

SIEGEL: In one of rock's iconic moments, Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire in front of Marshall stacks in the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: Hendrix picked up the flaming guitar and started to swing it. He hit a mic stand, bashed the guitar against the floor, smashing it to pieces. The only thing Hendrix appears keen not to destroy - his Marshall amp. Jim Marshall died this morning in England. He was 88 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hendrix.

CORNISH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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