James Charles Marshall, also known as The Father of Loud or The Lord of Loud, pioneered guitar amplification. Marshall Amplification, his company, has created equipment used by some of the biggest names in rock music, producing iconic amplifiers. But did you know Mashall had to live in a full-body cast growing up?
Jim Marshall, the creator of the Marshall amplification system, which rock guitarists widely use, contracted a form of tuberculosis that affected his bones as a child. He was kept in plaster casts from his ankles to his armpits for treatment until he was a teenager.
Jim Marshall’s Life with Tubercular Bones
On July 29, 1923, Jim Marshall was born. His childhood was difficult; he had tubercular bones and spent much time in and out of hospitals, sometimes in a full-body cast. Treatment for this condition was limited in the early twentieth century, and little hope must have been placed in his recovery.
It’s easy to imagine someone feeling hopeless or even sinking into self-pity in these circumstances. This was different with Jim Marshall. He not only recovered from the condition, but he also began training as a tap dancer not long after.
It would be inaccurate to say Marshall was unaffected by this period of his life; instead, the rest of Marshall’s life reveals a series of endeavors implying a drive and energy far from the cheerful calm he displayed in interviews throughout his life. We can assume that being reminded of his physical limitations at such a young age, when we usually believe we are invincible, was a powerful experience for him.
Marshall was certainly moved enough by the experience to make a generous donation to the hospital he visited and establish a charity to assist children in similar situations after his later success.
When World War II broke out, Marshall’s medical history prevented him from joining the military. This, however, did not limit his ability to achieve. Marshall began as a singer, then as a singer and drummer as musicians were lost due to the war effort. By the war’s end, he was a drumming instructor, and several of his students became world-famous drummers. (Source: Science and Medium)
Marshall and Music
Around this time in Marshall’s life, his arguably greatest talent began to take effect: his ability to listen to those around him and provide what they required. It all started with Marshall opening a music store to sell drums to his protégés. This was moderately successful, but Marshall frequently heard customers say that selling guitars and amplifiers would be far more profitable. As a result, he began to stock them as well.
Marshall’s shop had become a labor exchange for musicians of the day at this point, and all the big names from the English rock ‘n’ roll scene could be found there. Around this time, Marshall was listening to the famous musicians who were now filling his shop and realized that all of the amplifiers on the market simply needed to be made for rock ‘n’ roll. (Source: Science and Medium)