Launched in the 1980’s, the Marshall Guv’nor distortion pedal became a classic effect known for high quality distortion tones. The Guv'nor was designed to create a full-featured overdrive pedal worthy of its Marshall heritage.
Personally named by Jim Marshall himself, "The Guv'nor" is British slang for "The Leader," or a musician's expression in the UK meaning "The Ultimate." While used by many artists, "The Guv'nor" is perhaps most often associated with blues-rock guitarist Gary Moore (Skid Row, Thin Lizzy, Colosseum II, Phil Lynott, Greg Lake, BBM). According to Marshall, of all the various tones that have been heard on Gary Moore's recordings, the sounds on the "Still Got The Blues" album are the most asked about by fans. During 1989 the JTM Amplifier Reissue series was in the final stages of development, and Gary received an early production model. Used in conjunction with a 1959 Les Paul Standard, a Marshall Guv'nor pedal, and a 1960B 4x12" cab loaded with Electrovoice 12" speakers, it became the featured tone of the album, heard on nearly all the tracks including the title track.
As Gary Moore recalled "One of the guys from Metallica goes up to Bob Rock and says, 'This is the sound I want,' and plays him 'Oh Pretty Woman' from Still Got The Blues. Then they proceed to go through all these pre-amps and processors to achieve it. I felt I should write and say, 'That's not how to do it. You've got the money now guys, go out and buy a '59 Les Paul, a Guv'nor pedal and a JTM45!" Let's give this track a listen to hear The Guv'nor in action:
The Guv'nor circuit uses two stages of gain with diode clipping and tone controls. The gain comes from a TL072 low-noise operational amplifier (op-amps) chip. This device is made for high-fidelity audio preamplifier applications and uses junction field effect transistors (JFETs) to achieve good gain with low noise and low harmonic distortion. The Guv'nor pedal has five main potentiometer controls and a switch that operate as follows:
Let's give a listen now to how these controls affect the range of tones The Guv'nor can deliver:
GAIN - This controls the intensity of the drive and will provide a range of overdrive selections. Lower settings will give a simple volume boost, while advanced settings will provide screaming solo sounds.
BASS - Controls the lower frequencies giving a range from thudding, heavy rhythm, to tight and punchy solo response.
MIDDLE - This control provides the key to an unbelievable range of distortion tones. When backed off, the sound is smooth and fat for more lyrical blues/rock playing styles. Increasing the contour changes the character of the mid response and enhances the treble and bass frequencies.
TREBLE - High end response control which tailors the attack and enhances the harmonic content. All three EQ controls are truly interactive, letting the player dial in anything from hard-driving, modern Marshall distortion, to the sweet, syrupy sustain of classic Vintage models.
LEVEL - Provides control of the overall level and amount of boost.
SWITCH - On/off switch to bypass or activate the pedal with indicator LED to show the status.
BUILDING A MARSHALL GUV'NOR CLONE
If you want to build your own Marshall Guv'nor clone pedal you have two options - purchase a ready-made kit or create your own kit. To create your own kit you can visit TonePad.com to see the schematic, parts list and printed-circuit board design. Here's a demonstration video of The Guv'nor made from the TonePad.com information:
The second option is to purchase a ready-made kit, such as the MGV Complete Kit from General Guitar Gadgets. This kit sells for $60.00 with an enclosure and includes all parts and circuit board needed. The General Guitar Gadget's (GGG) version is based on the Marshall Guv'nor and also the Danelectro Daddyo, which is basically the same circuit as the Guv'nor with input and output buffers added.
This kit offers three changes to the original design:
The final difference is that the kit is in a standard pedal enclosure versus the larger enclosure used for the original. This will save some valuable space on the pedal board if needed. This video offers a side-by-side comparison of the kit and the original.
True Bypass Switching - the kit includes a three-pole dual-throw (3PDT) switch instead of the original dual-pole (DPDT) switch to offer true bypass switching and an LED indicator for when the pedal is activated.
Alternative Clipping Diodes - the original Guv'nor design used LEDs as clipping diodes. In the GGG version a switch is added to allow 1N914 diodes to be used instead, providing another tone option.
Effects Loop Jack Removed - the original pedal included an Effects jack that would interrupt the output jack feed and allow the send/return to an effects loop. This has been eliminated in the kit but it can be easily added if needed.