Friday, April 6, 2012

When Giants Walked The Earth: The Mother Amp

We learned with sadness yesterday of the death of Jim Marshall, founder of the empire that bore his name. He was one of the last of what you might call the Founding Fathers of rock music.

What's of more than passing interest is the connection between the earliest Marshall amplifier-the JTM45-and the Fender 5F6A Bassman that it was reverse engineered from.

It seems that the manager of Jim's music shop had one, and at the time Marshall made the decision to start building amps, and as it was known his amp was outstanding, it was used as the model for the JTM45.

That amp was the Mother Amp. There was nothing like it, and it marks a tectonic shift in the progress of guitar and bass amplification. That was the start for Marshall which went on to bigger things.

I knew a fellow named Skip Grebis in high school where I grew up in New Jersey. One day he called me and said "I have the best guitar amp in the world here at my house. You should see it." I headed over and he had a 5F6A Bassman he'd borrowed from a cousin named Joe Rizko. I looked at it and smirked "It looks like a suitcase. Are you kidding?" He said "In a future time people will pay huge amounts of money for these things."

As usual, he was right although he didn't know and couldn't explain where he got his insights from. He's studiously maintained a low profile in Florida somewhere.

That's the problem with people who can see the future-the rest of us can't.

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