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Class of 1939

Phyllis Marshall was born on November 4, 1921 in Barrie, Ontario and died on Feb 2, 1996 in Toronto, Ontario. She studied piano as a child and was known as a track athlete. Phyllis made her singing debut at 15 on the radio station CRCT, then performing with Jack Arthur. Soon after she performed on the CBC radio station with Percy Faith. Her first nightclub engagement was at Toronto's Silver Slipper, September 1938, with the Canadian Ambassadors. Encouraged by the CBC announcer Byng Whitteker to sing blues and jazz, she performed during the 1940s with various Toronto dance bands (including an 18-month stint at Toronto's Park Plaza Hotel 1943-44), with her own trio, and on tour 1947-1948 in the USA with the Cab Calloway Orchestra.

She starred on TV's 'The Big Revue' 1952-54, 'Cross-Canada Hit Parade' 1956-59, and other shows. She performed with Canadian jazz notables including Oscar Peterson and Bert Niosi. She performed in England on the BBC TV in 1959 (The Phyllis Marshall Special) and again in 1964 in nightclubs. Her LP 'That Girl' (1964, Cap FS-614), recorded in the company of US jazz stars Buck Clayton and Buddy Tate, captures Marshall's light, secure singing style and received a Juno Award as 'good music product LP'. Marshall had earlier recorded for Monogram, 1949.

Her second career, as an actress, began in 1956 at Toronto's Crest Theatre and included dramatic and musical roles in stage, radio, and TV productions such as the revue Cindy-Ella (1964), CBC radio's 'The Amen Corner' (1970), and CBS-CTV's Night Heat in the mid-1980s. She continued to sing on occasion, like at the ACTRA Awards in 1977, and for Freedom Fest (Harbourfront) in 1988. Marshall is remembered as one of Canadian television's earliest stars, and as a pioneer among black Canadian performers.

  • Sister of the television shows in the 1950s and 1960s: “The Big Revue” and “Cross Canada Hit Parade”

  • Sang in a variety show when CBC went on the air in 1952

  • Recorded the Juno Award-winning album in 1964 “That Girl” with U.S. jazz star Buck Clayton and Buddy Tate

  • The “Voice” of Catgut for The Muppets in “Muppet Musicians of Bremen”

  • Rated as a top jazz singer, Phyllis appeared with Cab Calloway and other notables

  • Phyllis retuned to Runnymede on a number of occasions to sing in the Auditorium

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