Historic and legendary are two words to describe the reputation of this amazing pedal which is often noted for having what some like to call "a round, bell like tone with soft distortion character." It was an amp adored in the 1960's and it is still admired and loved today in its multiple forms.
Going Back in Time
In order to understand the depth of this iconic pedal, you must first pay homage to its amplifier roots. The year was 1961 and Eric Clapton was looking for an amp that could fit in the boot (trunk) of his car. Jim Marshall of Marshall Amps, provided him with a Model 1961 with 4 x 10 speakers which was eventually upgraded to 2 x 12 in 1962. Coupled with Clapton's 1960 Gibson Les Paul, some amazing tones were soon to follow.
The Greatest Sound
After gigging for over a year, Clapton joins John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers (the original amp and pedal's namesake). They go into the studio and decide to capture their album just as if they were playing live. Clapton's amp is cranked up with no isolation and what they end up producing is something profound and amazing. The album quickly becomes incredibly popular and is ultimately credited with the birth of the British blues-rock scene of the '60s.
Adored by the Masses
Fast forward to 1991 and Marshall began to make a guitar effect pedal that would capture the same magic of the original combo. This release would eventually make it the grandfather pedal to so many amazing overdrive pedals. A few of those pedals share the same lineage include JHS's Morning Glory, Wampler's Pantheon, Analogman's King of Tone and Prince of Tone, Snouse's Blackbox, and Keeley's 1962. All of them share the same topology of the English stompbox but are also very different.
Not a Clone
So are all above pedals clones? The answer is no. Each pedal contains the same DNA but with sounds that are new, different, and unique all in their own way. If you study the roots of Marshall Amps, Jim Marshall was a drummer who was importing Fender amplifiers in response to the growing music scene. His friends and colleagues suggested to just build an amplifier himself to save on costs (especially shipping) and the Marshall brand was born. Inspired by Fender's 1959 Tweed Bassman, the parts Marshall acquired in London were different than the Californian parts utilized by Fender. The end result: a unique sound for the guitar market. Just as Jim Marshall was trying to recreate the 1959 Tweed Bassman he ended up creating a very different amplifier. The same holds true with these pedals. They share the same lineage but contain their own individual uniqueness.
This pedal has a fun and interesting story. It's an amp that became a pedal - a stompbox that has inspired other boutique pedal companies, musicians, and listeners all over the world. It is deeply embedded in our culture and will remain a rich part of our music history.