"I wanted to take my mother's name, which was Frampton," he said, "but people said that name would never work in show biz."
(The name later seemed to work just fine for British guitar great Peter Frampton, though.)
Wikipedia says Marshall took his stage name from the college in Huntington, but that's not really what happened -- at least, not directly. Marshall was the name his older sister, actress Joanne Dru, used when she worked as a model before breaking onto Broadway and then into Hollywood films. The entertainer didn't say where she got the name.
Through the late 1940s until the early 1960s, Marshall was a singer, actor and comedy partner to comedian Tommy Noonan. The pair performed in nightclubs.
"We were huge," he said. "At least on the West Coast."
Marshall appeared in several films, did TV shows and performed on Broadway, which is what he was doing when he got the call from his agent about taking on host duties for the game show "Hollywood Squares."
He said he told his agent, "Tell them I don't want to do the show."
But then his agent told him comedian Dan Rowan ("Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In") also was being approached about maybe doing the show. That changed everything.
"So, to screw Dan Rowan, I did the show," Marshall said.
Marshall acknowledged a grudge. He said he and Noonan introduced Rowan to Dick Martin, wrote the comedy pair's act and, in essence, gave Rowan his career.
In the mid-1960s, Noonan was hospitalized with a brain tumor. Marshall said he called Rowan and asked him to go see his old friend and cheer him up. Rowan never went, and Marshall never forgave him.
Dick Martin was really nice, though, he said.
While he's lived most of his life in New York and California, Marshall said he's always thought of himself as a West Virginian.
"They're the teams I root for," he said.
None of his family lives in the Mountain State anymore. They've moved on like he did or have long since died, but this weekend, he's bringing some of his family home to visit graves and see the place where it all began for him.
"I'm just so excited to be coming back," he said.Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.