Signature Stories - part 1

Posted: 18 February 2020

A handful of artists have been lucky enough to have their own Marshall Signature amplifiers, we’ve taken a closer look at what makes each of these amps and how they came to be.

Read time - 5 mins

What do Slash, Zakk Wylde, Kerry King, Jimi Hendrix, Randy Rhoads, Lemmy, Paul Weller, Yngwie Malmsteen, Dave Mustaine and Joe Satriani have in common? Yes, they all play Marshall, and yes they all have a signature playing style… but more than that, they each have their very own Marshall Signature amplifier.

But what makes a Signature amp different to the original? Well Joe Satriani says “They’re specific, they do something outrageous and when you plug in to one you get really inspired”. With this in mind we’ve delved into the archives to take a closer look at what makes each of the signature models standout, and how they each came to be.

The first amplifier to ever feature a signature on the front other than Jim Marshall’s, the 2555SL, was unveiled in January 1996.  This new iteration was based on the 2555 Silver Jubilee which was already synonymous with Slash due to years of it being his weapon of choice, but how did it come about?

Well if you go back 12 months earlier Slash was fast running out of 2555 Jubilee heads. Some of his collection had been destroyed by overeager fans at gigs, some had given up the ghost after taking a beating from relentless touring, and some simply went missing whilst on the road. To solve this Slash approached Jim Marshall, who suggested a limited run of 3000 to both replenish Slash’s collection and also satisfy fans who wanted to recreate Slash’s iconic sound.

The 2555SL itself boasted a number of aesthetic tweaks to integrate Slash’s trademark style. It was clad in black as opposed to silver and had a brushed gold front panel instead of the usual mirrored one. On top of this the panel featured the guitarists ‘Snakepit’ logo, the title ‘JCM Slash Signature’ and even Slash’s signature, taking pride of place right underneath Jim’s. Completing the package was a faux-snakeskin cover and a certificate of authenticity.

Zakk Wylde’s guitar sound is instantly recognisable due to the fact the he’s played a JCM800 2203 since day one. What makes Zakk’s original 2203 stand out from the crowd however is that instead of featuring EL34 valves like the versions sold in the UK, his was equipped with 6550s meaning it could handle even more power. When Jim decided Zack was going to be the second guitarist to have their own signature model, these valves had to stay.

On top of this the 2203ZW featured a true-bypass FX loop, plus a whole host of cosmetic tweaks. From the bullseye design and Black Label Society logo on the front panel, to the gold piping, old fashioned handle and unique font used throughout, everything was uniquely styled. Finished with a TV grille cloth and both Jim Marshall’s and Zakk Wylde’s signatures, these looked the business. Unsurprisingly all 600 of them went flying of the shelves in a matter of hours.

James Marshall (Jim Marshall) first met James Marshall (Jimi Hendrix) in 1966, and Jim Marshall described Hendrix as “my greatest ambassador without any doubt at all”, so it inevitable that at some point Marshall would produce a signature amplifier in Jimi’s honour.

In 2006 that finally happened, and with 40 years of a historic relationship under their belts it made sense to use an amplifier that was also 40 years old and that Jimi was synonymous with. Step forward the Super 100.

For the Super 100JH the engineers wanted to replicate the setup that made Hendrix’s sound so recognisable back in the 1960s. From inspecting the heads Jimi originally used it became clear they were very similar to the stock models, even going as far to still house the original KT66 valves and Drake transformers. The only tweaks were circuit modifications to allow for slightly more treble and bass.

The 600 signature models were copied exactly and featured stunningly precise hand-wiring. From the front they looked just like the original Super 100’s but on the reverse had Jimi Hendrix’s logo plus his signature. In addition to the heads Marshall also created the angled 1982AJH and straight 1982BJH speaker cabinets which housed Celestion G12C 25W and were each 7 inches taller than a standard 1982 cab. This completed the accurate recreation of the original pinstriped stacks that Jimi used.

Part 2 of our look back at the Marshall signature series features Randy Rhoads, Lemmy, Kerry King and Paul Weller. Check that out now.