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Bassman Inspiration The amplifier that we can assume Dudley Craven created with the help of Ken Bran was modelled fairly closely on Fender’s Bassman combo, the 1959 version, now considered to be one of the finest-sounding guitar amps of all time.
Of course, there were small but telling differences both within the circuit and without, and to what degree these were intended to circumvent any possible copyright or were purposely chosen to reflect the tonal tastes of the main designer, Dudley Craven – not to mention the players who test-drove the earliest models – is a matter of conjecture.
Marshall lore has it that the first ‘complete’ Marshall amp, the famous bare chassis, was demonstrated in the shop at number 76 in the autumn of 1962, where it caused a sensation – plus a flood, according to Jim, of 20 or more immediate orders – and was sold to Pete Townshend.
– was tested one Sunday night at nearby music venue The Ealing Club by a local group of musicians who always gave useful feedback when it came to the all-important matter of the sound.
Underwood says he remembers the line-up of the band on the first test date – future Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell (who was either employed or just about to be employed by Jim Marshall as a ‘Saturday boy’ in the shop), Dave Golding on sax, Kenny Rankin on bass and Jimmy Royal on lead and vocals. and there are other versions of the story too – such as the testimony of Ken Flett, who joined the Marshall operation in 1963.
Plugged into the ‘high’ input of the normal channel, the guitar sounded tonefully smooth; swapped to the brilliant side, the result was ear-slicingly sharp and trebly.
Most of all, the quality of the sound was fantastic.