Jack Marshall was a top producer for Capitol records beginning in the late '50s and early '60s. His musical expertise led him into the combined realm of production and conducting, resulting in classic recordings for vocal artists such as Peggy Lee and Judy Garland. One of his most famous records was the Lee hit "Fever"; the fingersnaps on the record were done by Marshall's pal, guitarist Howard Roberts, whose name will come up again in the story of Marshall's career like a favorite blues guitar lick. On the side, Marshall began releasing a selection of albums under his own name that highlighted his fine playing on acoustic guitar, much of which swung toward the jazz side of things. Influenced by composer and arranger Billy May, he also concocted his own arrangements, displaying a fondness for loud brass. That Marshall was part of the sonically wild, musically outrageous '50s and '60s hi-fi era can certainly be assumed from some of his album titles. Only the space-age jazz astronaut Sun Ra could have a discography with titles in it such as Sounds!, Soundsville, and Sounds Unheard Of. Marshall was a close associate of fellow studio guitar whiz Roberts, producing all of this artists' mid-'60s albums on Capitol.
The two guitarists got together with another one of their studio picking partners, Bob Bain, to form the recording group entitled Guitars Unlimited, a band name that was later borrowed by more than one European performing group in the hot jazz, Django Reinhardt vein. The collaboration of these studio players was more along the lines of the Ventures, and actually seems to have been influenced by an earlier Marshall project, the Guitar Ramblers. The question of influence is permanently settled if the notion of "cheesiness" as an artistic quantity is taken into account. While many critics have praised tracks by Guitars Unlimited for being wonderfully cheesy, there is nothing that begs more for this adjective than the title of a Guitar Ramblers album from 1963, Happy, Youthful New Sounds. With the public becoming fanatic about the sound of the guitar, particularly the new electric model, Marshall and his buddies eliminated the sometimes controversial vocals and lyrics from '60s pop and cut versions of tunes such as "Come Together" and "Whiter Shade of Pale," or entire projects dedicated to country performers such as Eddy Arnold and Roger Miller. On the straighter jazz side of things, Marshall also nearly put his fingers in a permanent knot playing in a guitar duet with Barney Kessel, which recorded several albums. His television scoring work was music to young monster lover's ears indeed, leading to a Grammy nomination for his theme to The Munsters. The fuzz guitar part on this monsterpiece was played by Bain. The range of the man as a composer should never assumed to be limited to goofy ditties, however. He composed the extended "Essay for Guitar," a mini-concerto which was performed in concert by classical guitarist Christopher Parkening and conducted by the great film composer Elmer Bernstein. Marshall also performed the works of classical composers Stravinsky and Webern. Following Marshall's death, a scholarship fund for young guitarists was set up in his name at the University of Southern California. ~ Eugene Chadbourne