Marshall Guv'nor Guitar Drive Pedal - 1988

Bob Leggitt | Saturday, 28 June 2014
Marshall Guvnor drive pedal ad

The game-changing Marshall Guv’nor guitar effects pedal was actually kicking around the leading English guitar shops from autumn 1988 (Chandler acknowledged it as ‘just arrived’ in an ad compiled in the November), but it didn’t gain much of a profile until the following year. The Guv’nor was introduced to the wider British guitar-playing public in the March 1989 edition of Guitarist magazine, which was published in mid February.

Interestingly, that issue of the mag majored on an interview with Gary Moore, who gave some details about the recording of his then newly released album After the War. There was no mention of the Guv’nor in that interview, so the device’s most synonymous endorsee had clearly not been approached by Marshall in any pre-emptive manner regarding the pedal. The Guv’nor was in circulation for some time before Moore, or most other guitarists, appeared to know about it.

I’m guessing, though, that Marshall saw no need to make a song and dance about the Guv’nor. Anything blindingly good will come to the fore of its own accord in the end, and the Guv’nor was definitely blindingly good. The advert heading this post was actually published in April 1989, and that’s the first publication of it I can find going back through the printed matter of the period. The ad wasn’t run regularly either. It looked very much as if Marshall were blasé about pushing the device, and were content to let promotion look after itself.

And promotion did indeed look after itself. Guitarist magazine’s review was a glowing appraisal by a tough reviewer, and that must have persuaded a lot of readers to check out the pedal. And the vast majority of guitarists who did check out the Guv’nor must surely have bought it. The pedal achieved something very obviously in high demand, but which no drive pedal manufacturer had previously done: it replicated the world-acclaimed overdrive sound of a classic Marshall stack at full tilt, with solid state circuitry, in a stomp box. And that was the unit’s ticket. For those who wanted the Marshall sound in a floor pedal, there was simply no alternative. It had to be a Guv’nor.

Of course, the rest is history, and indeed, so phenomenally high was the reputation of the Guv’nor when it was discontinued in late 1991, that no fewer than 20,000 advance orders were placed for the trio of pedals led by the Guv’nor’s replacement – the Drivemaster – even before the new units had been advertised! That was some reputation to build on the strength of just one, simple, albeit brilliant, guitar FX device.

There really isn’t much difference between the Guv’nor and the Drivemaster, but the historic, collector’s piece would without doubt be 1988’s Guv’nor. A guitar pedal that sent anyone in search of the archetypal British rock sound into a frenzy, and eventually went stratospheric off the back of one of the most nonchalant marketing campaigns you could imagine. The Guv’nor did not require any shouting from the rooftops on the part of Marshall. It did its own shouting. Its marketing campaign was its sound.