The Jim Marshall Story Pt. 3
Many orders were taken from that first prototype and Jim recognised that he was into something. By 1963 he had expanded the shop to include a small manufacturing area where Ken and his assistant Dudley built the first amplifiers at the rate of about one a week. As demand increased, the cabinet manufacturing was moved to another shop across the street and then into a 20 x 30 ft workshop in Southall, Middlesex.
By 1964 Jim had to expand again and the first proper Marshall factory opened in Hayes with 6000 sq. ft. and 16 people making 20 amplifiers a week.
Marshalls were only available to customers at first from his own shop in Hanwell then, as word spread, Jim offered them to other retailers in the South of England while his friend Johnny Jones of "Jones and Crossland" in Birmingham Distributed them in the north of England from late '63. This arrangement continued for about 18 months until 1965 when Jim signed an exclusive Worldwide distribution agreement with Rose-Morris that was to last for about 15 years. Consequently, Johnny lost the rights to distribute Marshall so Jim introduced the "Park" line of amplifiers for Johnny to distribute as a favour.
It was now 1965. Britain was revelling in the hysteria of the "Beat Boom", America was succumbing to the "British Invasion"....... and Pete Townshend needed a bigger amp. Jim put Ken to work on the prototype 100 watt head.
"Jimi said that he wanted to use Marshall gear and that he was also going to be one of the top people in the world at this type of music. I thought he was just another one trying to get something for nothing, but in the next breath he said that he wanted to pay for everything he got. I thought he was a great character, I got on very well with him and he was our greatest ambassador. I saw him play about three times, and I saw him at the first sort of major concert which was at Olympia with Jimi Hendrix, The Move and Pink Floyd. I was very impressed by him as a musician; it was something new to me. I also went out with Ken and saw bands like The Who and Cream".
From 1966 onwards Marshall enjoyed explosive growth and consolidated their position as the Worlds premier rock guitar amplifier. During the Seventies the number of products offered mushroomed and Marshall found themselves in the forefront not only of guitar amplification but also of bass, PA cabinet and mixer designs, supplying mammoth systems for such bands as Deep Purple and Elton John.
By 1981 Jim decided to end his 15 year association with his distributor Rose-Morris and handle his own distribution. He had by this time drastically reduced the number of models available and concentrated on the newly introduced JCM800 series. It was tough at first not least of all because Britain was in he depths of a recession at the time, but they pulled through and in 1982 Marshall celebrated their 20th anniversary with a special run of white Marshall's.
In 1984 Marshall was awarded the "Queens Award for Export", an honour bestowed by the Queen in recognition of their outstanding export achievement over a three year period.
"That award meant a hell of a lot to me personally and to the company because we could use the Queens Award logo on our letterhead as well as in any advertising. It gave us prestige and as far as the employees were concerned was a source of pride."
In November 1985 Jim was invited to add his hand prints to the "Rock Walk Hall of Fame" in Hollywood along with Leo Fender, Robert Moog, Frank Martin III, Les Paul, Bill Ludwig, Remo Belli, Eddie Van Halen and Stevie Wonder. As Jim explained to the Los Angeles Times:
"At first I thought it was some kind of joke, but as I was putting my hand prints in I thought, 'Good God! I've really arrived!' On meeting Les Paul for the first time, as I did then, we hit it off straight away and he has a fantastic sense of humour. It was great. He's somebody I've looked up to for many years and I used to play his recordings. I admire anybody who has achieved what he had, especially when the man is such a nice man."