The Marshall Amplification company is renowned for creating some of the most iconic guitar amplifiers in the history of music. These amplifiers have powered some of the most famous guitar riffs and solos in the rock and roll era, from Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” to Slash’s “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” However, it was the pre-JTM Marshall amplifiers that laid the foundation for the company’s success.
The pre-JTM era refers to the period between 1962 and 1963, during which Jim Marshall was experimenting with various amplifier designs in his shop in Hanwell, London. These early amplifiers were handmade and featured simple circuitry that was often based on Fender and Vox designs. However, Marshall made several modifications and improvements to these circuits, creating a distinct sound that would become the hallmark of Marshall amplifiers.
One of the most famous pre-JTM amplifiers is the “Coffin Logo” model, so named because of the distinctive logo on the front of the amplifier that resembled a coffin. This amplifier was built in 1963 and was one of the first Marshall amplifiers to gain widespread popularity among guitarists.
The Coffin Logo amplifier was based on the Fender Bassman circuit, but Marshall made several modifications to the design to improve its sound. One of the most significant changes was the use of EL34 tubes instead of the 6L6 tubes used in the Bassman. EL34 tubes produce a warmer, more distorted sound than 6L6 tubes, which is one of the reasons why the Coffin Logo amplifier is so highly regarded by guitarists.
Another key feature of the Coffin Logo amplifier was its use of a 4×12 speaker cabinet, which became a hallmark of Marshall amplifiers. This cabinet featured four 12-inch speakers, which allowed the amplifier to produce a loud, powerful sound that could fill large venues. The cabinet was also designed to be easily transportable, with detachable casters and handles that made it easy for musicians to move it from one location to another.
The Coffin Logo amplifier was also notable for its distinctive appearance. The amplifier head was housed in a black vinyl-covered cabinet with white piping, and the front panel featured the Coffin Logo and a simple control layout. The control panel included knobs for volume, treble, and bass, as well as a presence control that allowed guitarists to adjust the amplifier’s high-frequency response.
The Coffin Logo amplifier quickly gained a reputation among guitarists for its powerful, distorted sound and its ability to cut through the mix in live performances. It was used by several influential guitarists of the era, including Pete Townshend of The Who, Eric Clapton of The Yardbirds, and Jimmy Page of The Yardbirds and later Led Zeppelin.
One of the most famous recordings featuring the Coffin Logo amplifier is The Who’s live album “Live at Leeds,” recorded in 1970. The album features several classic tracks, including “My Generation” and “Magic Bus,” which showcase the amplifier’s powerful, distorted sound.
The success of the Coffin Logo amplifier led Marshall to continue refining and improving his amplifier designs, eventually leading to the introduction of the JTM-45 amplifier in 1965. The JTM-45 was based on the same circuit as the Coffin Logo amplifier but featured several improvements, including a separate preamp section and a more sophisticated tone control circuit.
However, the Coffin Logo amplifier remains an important part of Marshall’s history and a highly sought-after amplifier by guitarists and collectors alike. Vintage Coffin Logo amplifiers are rare and command high prices on the used market, with some examples selling for tens of thousands of dollars.
This vintage JTM-45 has been inspected and signed by Jim Marshall in 1990. Contact us for more pictures and additional details or questions.