I was born at a very early age in the depths of the last century, before words like transistor and digital sound processors had been invented. The only form of amplification then was from those lovely glowing glass bottles called valves. 

Like most young boys I had an inherent curiosity for all things new. My first contact with electricity was sticking my fingers into a wall socket and turning on the switch. Shocking, and not to be recommended. 

Growing up within a musical family, and hearing Elvis and Buddy Holly on the radio inspired me to learn to play the guitar. So my parents gave me one for my 13th birthday, with a book on how to play. The tunes in the book were less than exciting and the guitar action was fingertip shreading so after a couple of weeks they were put in a corner. 

Later that year I had a lengthy stay in hospital and after the first week, to avert boredom, I asked my parents to bring in the guitar with a decent music book. They arrived with a book of six tunes by The Shadows – Great! I set about learning them until I was note perfect.

When I came out of hospital with my repertoire I was hot property in the music world and was offered the lead guitarist's job in the local band. I realised that sticking a microphone inside my guitar and plugging it into my 2-watt tape recorder was not going to cut the mustard with a drummer, bass and rythmn player. So guitar number one was traded in for an Italian solid body Relog Guitona (what?), and a Watkins Westminster (10 watts) amp. Bliss.

The band played each week at a local club that started to get full up to bursting with people. Like all maniac lead guitarists I needed more power but couldn’t afford a bigger amp. My physics teacher heard about my volume problems and took me aside one day to make me an offer. He would help me build an amp if I improved my marks in his class. I wasn't sure about the deal until he showed me a picture of a 2x12 combo 35-watt amp in Practical Wireless. SOLD! Many hours were spent with burned fingers and a patient mentor to replicate the project from the diagrams.

Testing time came, and with bated breath I plugged in my guitar and switched on. Not only did it work but also another teacher in the next room rushed in and told us to turn the noise down. Cracked it! 

I used that amp for two years, playing some big halls and clubs, and it never let me down. It also sounded crystal clear. At that time I had no idea what I was going to do with my life apart from this music thing that seemed fun so the lights went on for a career in electronics.

I qualified as an electronics engineer and spent my early working years in that industry to make enough money to support an old Austin van (gear transport) and later a family. I supplemented my income by playing in bands in the evenings, and doing amp repairs in the back room.

By this time I was playing in 'loud' bands and the cherished 35 watt amp was sold to help finance one of the new 100 watt Marshall heads. These had just come on the market and were said to be the loudest thing around. They were right about the volume, but I always missed the tone of my home-made amp.

The next thirty years were spent in and out of the music business. In, both playing and fixing or modifying amps. Out, earning money doing electronic design work for other people.

 In 1995 I made a leap and took a job running the service department in a large music store. During my time there I worked on about every variation of electronic musical equipment and got to know the workings of all the famous (and some infamous) makes and models of amplifiers – all the good bits and all the bad bits. I developed a reputation for good quality workmanship and the service side of the business quadrupled in as many years.

Time to move on again. I left the store and started out by myself as repairer, designer and builder - so here I am today still doing the job after 55 years. If people still like what I do I'll just keep on doing it..........................




Dennis Marshall