1989 Marshall The Guv’nor

Model Description:

Since the early 1960s, Marshall Amplification has become an iconic British music equipment manufacturer. In late 1988, Marshall introduced an all‑new overdrive/distortion effect pedal called The Guv’nor, intended to replicate the powerful tones of the mighty Marshall JCM800 valve amp in a convenient solid state stomp box. It actually wasn’t Marshall’s first effect pedal, that accolade went to the Marshall Supa Fuzz, which was basically a Mark II Tone Bender made by Sola Sound of London in the 1970s. The Guv’nor was, however, the first effect pedal to be designed and built in‑house by Marshall. The Guv’nor Mk 1 stayed in production for just 4 years until late 1992, although the latter ones were built in Korea, rather than England. The Guv’nor is unusual in that it has an integrated effect loop whereby the footswitch on The Guv’nor engages not only the controls but also any pedal placed in the loop. To work, the effect loop requires a ‘Y’ TRS (tip‑ring‑sleeve) insert cable to work as intended. Build quality was reported to be a bit of an issue, primarily due to a number of proprietary parts, including jack sockets, pots and footswitch, making long‑term maintenance potentially more problematic. Marshall’s original English‑made The Guv’nor Mk 1 has become quite desirable in the 21st Century, mainly because of its association with the late, great blues/rock guitarist Gary Moore. While Marshall has no doubt ‘improved’ on the original design with their modern update, the smaller GV‑2 Guv’nor Plus, the short‑lived Mk 1 originals have a great deal of charm and, although fairly plentiful, have become relatively collectable on the vintage effect market.

Pedal Description:

Straying from American and Japanese origins of for once, here is a great effect pedal from the UK, a Marshall The Guv’nor Mk 1 from c.1989 (there is no way of being definitive). This early ‘Made in England’ version of The Guv’nor is in pretty good all‑original condition having been in the possession of its original careful owner for more than 30 years. It even has its original box with matching low serial number and dealer label, which is cool – sadly, though, the instruction manual is absent. The electronics are mounted on two internal green PCBs and can be a bit noisy at times, so best left alone because of their proprietary origins. Notably, the robust enclosure is pretty heavy for its surprisingly petite build. For those that are looking for a now‑very trendy ‘amp‑in‑a‑box’ solution, The Guv’nor promises the unmistakable hard rock tones of a cranked classic Marshall stack. To do this, the gain control adds some compression to driven tones and the 3‑way EQ controls work interdependently to help sculpt the desired tone. Being realistic, while it cannot really sound or feel like a cooking JCM800 valve amp atop an intimidating stack of 4×12” closed cabs, it does a good job of getting the basic Marshall tone and voice, although this depends a great deal on the guitar and amp with which it is partnered. Let’s be honest, it isn’t some magical substitution for a vintage Marshall valve amp but it does do a darned good impression. To be honest, I am not a great fan of overdrive/distortion pedals (or in fact the British amp sound for that matter) but that’s just me, so I’m probably not best placed to comment on the subtleties and authenticity of The Guv’nor’s sonic signature. However, it does growl, bite, spit and snarl very nicely, especially when the controls are fully maxed out. The effect loop may or may not be a good thing depending on your pedal board configuration but it fits well with today’s ‘amp‑in‑a‑box’ concept. Turn the Marshall The Guv’nor up to 10 (sadly, it doesn’t go up to 11!) and rock on.


  • Made in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England, UK in c.1989
  • The ‘Gain’ knob controls the amount of sensitivity and overdrive and distortion
  • The ‘Bass’ knob controls the low frequency band
  • The ‘Middle’ knob controls the mid‑range frequencies by boosting or cutting the mids
  • The ‘Treble’ knob controls the upper frequency band and harmonics
  • The ‘Level’ knob controls the output level
  • Standard footswitch turns the effect on and off
  • Standard ¼” single input and output mono jack sockets
  • Send & Return loop via a single ¼” TRS jack socket
  • Red LED status indicator
  • 9V DC power supply (centre negative) input or 9V battery
  • ‘Made in England’ sticker with serial number on the battery compartment cover
  • Original box with matching serial number, no instruction manual


  • Gary Moore

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