By: Sher St Kitts
February is black history month and to celebrate we’re starting a campaign to induct Phyllis Marshall into the Canada Walk of Fame!
If you haven’t heard about Phyllis and her contribution to the arts here is a snapshot of her life:
Phyllis Marshall (1921-1996)
Phyllis Irene Elizabeth Marshall. Phyllis was born in Barrie, Ontario, November 4, 1921, The Marshall’s moved to Toronto where Phyllis grew up. While still a teenager attending Runnymede Collegiate she was a young track star with sights on representing Canada in the 1940s Olympics which were canceled. At 15 she began her singing career with her debut on radio station CRCT. She performed with Jack Arthur and Percy Faith. She performed in Toronto’s various night clubs, including the Silver Slipper in 1938. During the 1940s she performed with many Toronto dance bands including 18 month engagement at the Park Plaza Hotel 1943-44 with her own trio. She was first approached by Fats Waller to tour with him – she was too young, but later she joined Cab Calloway’s Orchestra & toured with him in 1947-48. By 1949 she was on CBC radio’s ‘Blues for Friday’. When CBC TV first started she was a part of ‘The Big Revue’ 1952-4, and later ‘Cross-Canada Hit Parade’ 1956-9 and many other shows. In 1959 she was featured on the BBC with her own special ‘The Phyllis Marshall Special’. Over the years she performed with jazz notables such as Oscar Peterson and Bert Niosi. She was our first Canadian Black Female TV Star. She performed at the CNE in 1957 with Bob Hope. In 1964 she released an ‘LP’ for Columbia Records called ‘That Girl’ with such jazz stars Buck Clayton and Buddy Tate, winning an award by the precursors to the Canadian Junos.