CBC Digital Archives

Phyllis Marshall on prejudice

February is Black History Month. In Canada, it's a time to celebrate the achievements of black Canadians and reflect on their experiences throughout our past. CBC Digital Archives has pulled together a selection of radio and TV clips that honour black history — some of which exemplify the racism blacks have had to endure and overcome, both in Canada and around the world, while others highlight the remarkable accomplishments of extraordinary people.

media clip
"I can't say that prejudice has ever been a problem to me, especially in Canada or Europe," says Canadian singer Phyllis Marshall. She does, however, admit she's had a few problems in the U.S. "Being coloured, I certainly wouldn't even consider living in the United States," she confesses. In this 1960 interview, the singer also explains her "3-D" philosophy -- "no delays, no detours, and no distractions" -- and describes her hopes for her teenage daughter's future.
• Phyllis Marshall was born in Barrie, Ont., on Nov. 4, 1921.

• She made her singing debut at the age of 15 on Toronto radio station CRCT, and was soon performing on CBC Radio with Canadian band-leader Percy Faith.

• During the late 1930s and 1940s, Marshall concentrated on singing live jazz, both on stage in Toronto and on tour through the U.S. with the Cab Calloway Orchestra.

• From 1949 to 1952, Marshall performed regularly on CBC Radio's Blues for Friday (later called Starlight Moods). In the 1950s she starred on CBC-TV's The Big Revue and Cross-Canada Hit Parade.

• She also starred in her own musical special in England, called The Phyllis Marshall Special, airing on BBC Television in 1959.

• Marshall made the foray into acting in 1956 at Toronto's Crest Theatre. Among her later notable performances were roles in the 1970 CBC Radio drama The Amen Corner, an early 1970s CBC-TV series called Paul Bernard, Psychiatrist, and the 1980s CTV/CBS TV crime drama Night Heat.

• Phyllis Marshall passed away in Toronto on Feb. 2, 1996 at the age of 74.

The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada refers to Marshall as "one of Canadian television's earliest stars, and... a pioneer among black Canadian performers."

Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: Aug. 5, 1960
Guest(s): Phyllis Marshall
Interviewer: Allan Anderson
Duration: 7:30

Last updated: January 30, 2013

Page consulted on August 12, 2014

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