You don’t see a Marshall like this every day. The “Tattoo” is usually on the skin of the axe-wielding showman, standing next to his beloved Marshall, not the other way around, as it is with this stunning combo with custom grill cloth and Tolex. Tolex is a tough man-made material used to protect amps, cabs, and wooden guitar cases. It’s made in many textures and colors, like vinyl. Marshall Amps’ have used custom color Tolex throughout their long history, but only on rare and limited runs. They are extremely collectible, and sought after. Red, green, purple, white, plumb, orange (standard color on the short-lived Marshall Mercury), and more occasionally will surface, alongside the standard Black Tolex with white piping.

Grill cloth changed over the years as well; but custom grill cloth graphics were always home-made decorations, until the recent past. Custom Tolex Marshalls make my heart beat a bit faster. They pop up so infrequently that when I see one, I have to get up close, for a tactile response, like the need to touch a McLaren super car, or a James Bond prop.  Marshall made the occasional custom color Tolex as early as 1967. As far as I’ve ever seen, 2014 is the first time Marshall made a commercially available custom grill cloth. Marshall threw caution to the wind and gave some of the UK’s top Tattoo artists a blank canvas to design whatever they wanted on 3 different models; a great idea on Marshall’s part. Marshall makes great amps, not Tattoo art. The masters of the UK tattoo scene don’t make amps, but they understand the Rock and Roll culture. Each specialist did their job with excellence.

The proof is in the artistry of this unbelievably cool limited edition set of amps. The JVM410H 100-watt head and 4×12” cab, the JVM1H 1-watt head and 1×10” cab, and the most versatile of the three, pictured here: The JVM215C 50-Watt 1×12 combo. Five artists and three amps. 15 different designs in total…WOW. If you plan on getting them all (you are, aren’t you?), you have a lot of work to do. This JVM215C is a UK-made all tube, 2 independent channel amp. Each channel has three modes to operate within. You can “pre-set” the amp six different ways, and control by footswitch. Digital Reverb, silent recording switch, and midi controllable. All tones are all tube, analog, classic Marshall. This amp satisfies the modern player’s needs, with classic Marshall sonic jackhammer tone.

The Sugar Skull motif with green custom Tolex is a show stopper, long before you turn it on. The original Tattoo flash on this version is the handy work of Anthony Flemming from “World of Tattoo’s” in London (not far from where the first Marshall amps were made). The color complements of the ‘Tattooed’ Skull grill cloth are bold, and timeless. Let’s face it, any skull is cool, but this one is actually classy. The British racing green Tolex is a great match with the graphic. If you are like most electric guitar players, you will agree the name Marshall screams ‘Rock and Roll’. That being said, the Marshall Custom Tattoo combo screams Rock and Roll from the top of Mount Everest. As time goes by, these are very likely to rise quite a bit in value. Vintage custom Tolex examples can bring three times the price of standard black. Not for the meek, but if you are looking for your next Marshall, there is nothing meek about you.

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Mike Rock
A fixture in the Rock and Roll guitar community since 1978, Mike Rock is the “Go-To” source for Sam Ash's most intricate questions involving Guitars and related gear. A collector whose true passion is playing, Mike has performed over 2,500 gigs around the world. Mike began his musical journey studying the trumpet. While buying sheet music for a recital, Mike first heard an electric guitar through a fuzz box. Forty years later, he still maintains that the fuzz WAS germanium based (he is a bit crazy). This encounter drove Mike to his first guitar and a tube amp. Soon his guitar was heavily modified and the amp was on its 3rd replacement speaker. Mike was hunting for tone and blowing guitar speakers before there was a “boutique” or “vintage” market. It wasn’t long before Mike was buying, and validating vintage guitars and gear for some of the biggest companies in the world, finally finding a home assisting mentor and friend Sammy Ash, at the place where he heard that first Fuzz Guitar, so many years ago. Mike still performs regularly and recognizes the history and beauty of vintage and modern gear. Mike is aware not everyone is a collector and most players need a set up that works for the sound they chase, regardless of its pedigree, or vintage or status.