Hitting the streets in 1990, the Model 1962 “Bluesbreaker” reissue was plagued with discrepancies out of the box. The cabinet was undersized by some 30 percent, with a depth barely over 9”, while the original measured in at 10.5”. The reissue’s overall width was almost 30”, while the original was 32”. The most reasonable explanation for these differences would come from the use of output tubes originally selected for the Model 1962. Although the very first combos incorporated the smaller 5881 vacuum tube, Marshall designed the Model 1962 for the more prevalent but enormous Coke bottle-shaped KT66 vacuum tube. The usage of this particular tube necessitated the deeper 10.5” cabinet.
Likewise, the cabinet’s construction differed significantly from original specs. The Model 1962 Series I was built using pine planks for the cabinet with multi-ply birch baffles; the Model 1962 Series II was completely constructed with multi-ply birch plywood (more about these Series differences in a moment). The reissue used particle board for the cabinet and plywood baffles.
Finally, the speakers supplied in the original combo were G12M “Greenbacks,” rated at 20 watts each. This speaker utilized an Alnico magnet, providing sweet, warm tones and a smooth midrange – an essential ingredient for that “British chime.” At 20 watts, the speaker could barely keep up with the tremendous overdrive of the amplifier when it was at full volume. Marshall, however, equipped the Bluesbreaker reissue with 25-watt Greenbacks, featuring ceramic magnets. While they lacked the chime of an Alnico magnet, they could withstand twice the wattage and had a fine sound of their own.
The Model 1962 Backstory
However, before we dig in and modify our reissue Bluesbreaker, it would behoove us to understand where it all started. In 1964, while the Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted, Marshall was busy introducing its very first combo. Because it was the very first series, it is historically referred to as the Model 1962 Series I. Interestingly, the 1962’s model number did not refer to a particular year or significant event in time. Until the 1980s, Marshall’s distributor and financial backer Rose-Morris used these numbers arbitrarily, using the prefix “19” for all of Marshall’s product line.
Jim Marshall wanted his new range of combos to be versatile; as a result, he designed the Model 1962 with two 12” loudspeakers and used the JTM45 bass chassis (Model 1986) electronics. The Model 1962 was described in the Marshall catalogue as a “Bass/Lead” unit, making it an extremely versatile amplifier that could be used by guitarists and bass players alike.
But just how close was this new variant to the original Model 1962? To the true Marshall collector, and to the rare few who actually owned the genuine article, the differences were immediately apparent.
In addition, a second combo with four 10” speakers – the same configuration used in the Fender Bassman – was offered to players. Marshall’s 4x10 version was referred to as the “Lead” and utilized the JTM45 treble chassis (Model 1987) electronics. This 4x10 configuration, designated the Model 1961, was designed for guitar use only. Both Model 1962 and 1961 were purposely marketed as the British equivalent to the vastly popular Fender Bassman, and they offered quite a bargain for British and European musicians. The Model 1961 retailed for a scant $165 American dollars and the Model 1962 retailed for $170, while the Fender Bassman was nearly double at $300. Both models went into production in late 1964.
Cabinet and Construction
The cabinet dimensions for the Model 1962 (2x12 configuration) were 30” wide by 24” high by 12” deep. The 1961, incorporating four 10” speakers, maintained square proportions, measuring 28” wide by 28” tall and 11” deep. The Model 1962’s width is 2” wider and 1” deeper than the 1961’s to accommodate the dual 12” speakers.
Marshall amplifiers would also gain a reputation for their ruggedness. Marine ply birch was used for cabinet construction, as the laminated layers of glued veneer plywood provided greater overall strength than a singular plank of yellow pine, which was the wood of choice for Fender amplifiers. These early Marshalls did not use the “finger-lock” joints that would become standard on all Marshall cabinets a few years later.
|The Marshall ads above suggested the reissues matched the originals; in reality, there were significant differences
Marshall cabinets were also visually appealing and had the look of richly appointed furniture. Black PVC (polyvinyl chloride) material, similar to the General Tire invention known as “tolex,” was used for the entire exterior of the cabinet. This smooth, black fabric was different from the black “Levant” tolex Marshall would use later.
Accenting the cabinets was Marshall’s elegant grill cloth. The company’s catalogue referred to this early cloth only as, “contrasting speaker grills,” not actually describing the color or pattern of the cloth material. However, it was known as the “white” grill cloth and had thin, horizontal gray lines running through it. Also included on the earliest models were three leather straps, attached to the top of the cabinet and similar to the Vox AC30. These amplifiers weighed in at a very heavy 70 pounds, and the sheer weight meant that it wasn’t long before the leather straps would stretch and break. In early 1965, an improved, single plastic strap which was stronger and larger in size replaced the leather ones.
The very first Marshall combos produced in late 1964 used what was known as “Vox-style” cooling vents, which allowed the heat produced by the transformers and vacuum tubes to escape efficiently. Two vents were installed into the top of the cabinet, similar to the Vox AC30. The vents were rectangular in shape and had a metal screen riveted inside.